By Andy Sambidge
Furniture giant apologises for removing women from photos in Saudi sales catalogue
Swedish furniture giant IKEA has apologised for removing women from some of the photos in catalogues shipped to Saudi Arabia, it was reported on Tuesday.
A local version of IKEA's yearly catalogue, published on its Saudi website, showed images that are identical to those in other editions apart from the missing women, AFP reported.
"We're deeply sorry for what has happened,"said Ulrika Englesson Sandman, a spokeswoman for Inter IKEA Systems in comment published by AFP.
The company owns the IKEA trademark and concept and oversees all franchisees including three Saudi Arabia stores.
"It's not the local franchisee that has removed the photos. The error has occurred in the process of producing the proposal to Saudi Arabia, and that is ultimately our responsibility."
"We are looking into the issue and holding a dialogue with our Saudi franchise holder," she was quoted as saying.
The issue has also prompted senior political figures to comment with Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling quoted as saying: "You can't remove or airbrush women out of reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to be seen or heard, or to work, they are letting half their intellectual capital go to waste."
Her sentiment was echoed by Swedish European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson, who branded the incident "medieval" on Twitter.
IKEA's Saudi franchise partner currently operates three stores in the country, where it has seen "double digit" yearly growth over the past five years, according to its website.For all the latest retail news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
"comment with Trade Minister Ewa Bjoerling quoted as saying: "You can't remove or airbrush women out of reality. If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to be seen or heard, or to work, they are letting half their intellectual capital go to waste."
If Saudi Arabia does not allow women to be seen or heard ot to work, then IKEA would have closed doors in Saudi Arabia and left. I would say that 99% of customers of EKIA in Saudi Arabia are Saudi women.
Well, that kind of makes it strange that you cannot have them in the catalog then, wouldn't you agree? Please do a reality check, I know you have it in you, it is time to let go of the ancient practices.
These are not ancient practices. Most Saudi religious scholars promote an opinion that goes against photography of people, statues, sculptures, iconography etc.
Saudis in general also look down on the practise of "abusing" women and exploiting them in advertisements to sell products from sports cars to househould paint.
This is not just an issue with Ikea, there are many international companies that remove non-essential phots of people in general and women in particular when they sell into the Saudi market.
Im sure Saudis are bewildered or amused by comments such as women being discriminated against or sidelined, and think quite the opposite about how women are objectified and exploited to sell products.