IKEA, or Yijia (宜家), recalled 29 million pieces of furniture in the United States two weeks ago after its products were blamed for accidents leading to the deaths of at least six toddlers.
Initially, IKEA did not extend the recall to Europe or China, claiming that their products fulfill current safety regulations in those regions already. However, after severe backlash on social media from Chinese consumers and harsh criticism published on multiple Chinese news and media outlets the Swedish furniture company agreed to negotiations for a potential recall in China as well.
In the past couple of years, scandals such as with the tainted baby formula and the concern over the sources of materials used by fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC have made consumers increasingly wary and vigilant about product safety. As a response, the government has increased stringent product safety regulations, extending their implementation to the products of foreign companies as well. Government organizations in major Chinese cities including Shenzhen, Tianjin, and Nanjing all issued statements denouncing IKEA’s decision not to extend their recall to China.
On Tuesday, IKEA announced that it will extend its recall to China, but still not to Europe. IKEA will recall 1.7 million chests and dressers in China. Up to now, IKEA has enjoyed a strong and positive reputation in China, with many consumers visiting its stores to purchase products as well as to just sit in the restaurants to relax or eat. IKEA’s sales in China during the fiscal year ended in September totaled to a sum of $1.55 billion. This recent decision to extend its recall under pressure from consumers in China shows the growing strength and influence of the Chinese consumer market.
With the growth China has experienced in the past few decades, China’s consumers are becoming more selective with their purchases. Furthermore, through the widespread use of social media today, consumers have the power to exert significant amounts of pressure on companies with large incomes from retail like IKEA, as this case illustrates.