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Malaysia may only have four IKEA stores, but that doesn’t mean its famous flat-packed furniture and home furnishings can’t be conveniently picked up in-person by a huge percentage of the population.
Under a scheme launched by Retail Director Malcolm Pruys, a network of dozens of dedicated collection points have sprung up all across the nation, saving customers a fortune in delivery costs from their online purchases. By the end of 2025, the brand will be physically accessible to every single Malaysian, Pruys tells The CEO Magazine.
The Swedish retail giant operates 460 stores across 63 countries and has been in Malaysia since opening a shop in 1996 in the western township of Bandar Utama, though it has since relocated to Mutiara Damansara in Kuala Lumpur. Further stores opened their doors to excited customers in the capital’s eastern suburb Cheras in 2015, the southern city of Johor Bahru in 2017 and then, in 2019, Batu Kawan in Penang.
The appetite for well-crafted, stylish and affordable beds, tables, rugs and pretty much everything else a modern home requires shows no sign of reducing any time soon.
“The next five years will be about consolidating our two very big stores in Kuala Lumpur, as well as our wonderful development in Penang, which is part of a much larger master-planned township and community that’s still being built,” Pruys says. “IKEA arrived there very early, and now we’re waiting for the rest of that community to grow around us.”
The outlet in Johor Bahru was severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is now bouncing back as the region opens up again.
Pruys joined the firm in 1998 as a Department Head in Melbourne after a stint managing the city’s Disney Store. IKEA has since used his expertise to run projects and stores in multiple countries.
After just three years in Melbourne, he was sent to Shanghai and then Beijing, where he worked for eight years in increasingly senior roles before taking over the company’s Rhodes branch in Sydney for three years. He followed that with further foreign postings to Taipei City and Singapore, where he was appointed Head of Sales for South-East Asia.
His air miles received a further boost in 2017 when he was chosen to launch the brand in Mexico, where he stayed for a highly successful five years before arriving in Malaysia last September.
It’s a journey he has enjoyed, particularly working for a company where the employees feel valued.
“Our culture and values are absolutely what makes us an attractive employer and help us retain people,” Pruys says. “We recently had our annual dinner and were handing out awards for 10, 20 and 30 years of service. The number of such people was truly amazing and is testament to the robustness of the culture as well as strong management and leadership.”
The culture is important to not only the employees, but to customers as well.
“If we can make sure that when we’re developing and growing our leaders, we stay true to those values, the customer will have a better experience and we’ll remain relevant in the market,” Pruys says.
During his time with IKEA, Pruys has overseen significant evolution at the retailer, none more seismic than an increased commitment to looking after the planet’s resources.
“A big change for us worldwide has been the way our supply chains are set up, where goods come from and the traceability on raw materials,” he says. “We’ve made a strong commitment to reach net zero through how we build our stores and the ways we develop products. It’s about thinking hard about how we use the Earth’s resources and become more circular.”
Part of that process is educating suppliers, employees and customers around what it means to lead more environmentally responsible lives in a home-furnishing context.
“I’ve always been proud to work for IKEA from a sustainability perspective. It’s in our DNA,” he says. “Part of developing a range that is affordable to many people means looking at alternative materials and designs that use less energy and produce less waste.”
The demand for more recycled products and clean-energy practices from the public was heightened during the pandemic. It may have brought some logistical pain, but it also heralded a boom in sales.
“Our consumers are becoming much more demanding, so we need to meet that challenge with new and different services and make sure the in-store experience is really good whether it’s 2pm on a Monday or 4pm on a Saturday in Damansara, when there might be 15,000 people in the store,” he says.
Or even at one of the new collection points where you can pick up that beautiful coffee table or elegant wardrobe in peace, often without another customer in sight.