IKEA apologizes for female-free Saudi catalogue

  • IKEA, the world's biggest furniture retailer, has apologized for airbrushing women out of its latest catalogue in Saudi Arabia.

    The Swedish firm, known for its budget furniture in self-assemble flat packs, said it regretted removing the women from pictures in its annual brochure.

    The issue first came to light after Swedish newspaper Metro compared the Swedish and Saudi versions of the catalogue, highlighting that women were missing from otherwise identical pictures.

    "It is not the local franchisee that has requested the retouch of the discussed pictures," IKEA franchisor Inter IKEA Group B.V. said in a statement. "We will naturally review our routines and working process, to ensure that this will not happen again."

    Swedish Gender Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni criticized the furniture giant, saying that Swedish companies needed to maintain their principles at home and abroad.

    "For Ikea to remove an important part of Sweden's image and an important part of its values in a country that more than any other needs to know about about Ikea's principles and values, that's completely wrong," she said.

    "And if there is any country in the world that needs to know IKEA's values, it is Saudi Arabia. Therefore it is a pity that it is there they choose to abandon part of their values, in this case equality.”

    At present, franchises have the final say on the content of the catalogues.

    IKEA franchisee Al Sulaiman, which runs the three IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia, could not be reached for comment.