Jysk: the poor man’s Ikea

Forget the Billy bookcase—Danish retailer Jysk will sell you the Danny for 15 per cent less

The poor mans ikea

Photograph by Andrew Tolson

The iconic Billy bookcase from Ikea helped transform the Swedish retailer into a global giant, cemented its reputation as the go-to source for stylish, inexpensive knock-down furniture, and made Ikea’s Scandinavian founder Ingvar Kamprad a billionaire.

Billy, meet Danny. In the Jysk Bed Bath Home store in Surrey, B.C., the Danny bookcase stands amid oddly familiar looking futons, desks and chairs. Never heard of Jysk (pronounced Yisk)? It’s a Danish retailer that’s emerged as a global giant, is known for inexpensive knock-down furniture, and has made its Scandinavian founder Lars Larsen a billionaire. Oh, and with the exact same dimensions and style as Billy, Danny just happens to be 15 per cent cheaper, too.

Jysk: the poor man’s Ikea.

Over the past 15 years, Jysk has plotted one of the stealthiest, albeit quirky, retail invasions in Canada. From its Canadian head office near Vancouver, the discount chain operates 40 stores from coast to coast, yet has almost no national brand recognition. Now, while the retail world is abuzz over Target’s impending arrival from the U.S. in 2013, the Danes are plotting a hyper-expansion of their own here. Jysk is set to open at least 20 new stores a year over the next three years in a bid to make Jysk a household name. “We’ve survived and thrived for 15 years by offering Canadians quality for the lowest price,” says Ludvik Kristjansson, the CEO of Jysk’s Canadian operations. “I see no limit to how much we can grow.”

Jysk may not have anything like the profile Ikea enjoys, but its rise has been ambitious nonetheless. From his first store in the Danish port city of Aarhus in 1979, Larsen quickly rolled out the chain across the region. With an early focus on bedding, Larsen soon became known as the “King of Duvets” in Europe. (The company says it sources more duvets and pillows than any other retailer in the world.) Today the company boasts 1,750 home furnishing stores in 34 countries, with three new stores opening each week.

Jysk’s first foray into Canada came in 1996, in Coquitlam, B.C., of all places. The store was set up by Jakup Jacobsen, an Icelander-Dane who had bought the franchise rights for North America and Eastern Europe from Larsen. Kristjansson, a native of Iceland who’d been working in Montreal at the time at a grocery chain, joined the company the following year. He recalls a tough few years at first, as Jysk struggled to open additional stores throughout B.C.’s Lower Mainland. But gradually, Jysk spread out across Western Canada. Then, five years ago, the first Ontario store popped up in another unlikely location—Windsor. The chain now has 16 stores east of Winnipeg and plans to eventually boost that number to 80. Kristjansson sees a three-year window of relative peace for Canadian retailers to strengthen themselves before Target’s arrival, so in addition to opening new stores, Jysk is investing heavily to revamp its existing outlets. By 2015, Kristjansson predicts a brutal price war unlike anything Canada has ever seen will break out—and it’s one he intends to win.

Those who visit Jysk stores will no doubt be struck by the Ikea-ness of many of its products. The Poäng rocking chair, another famous standby at the Swedish retailer, has a doppelgänger at Jysk named the Kastrup that can be had for 30 per cent less. In online consumer forums, shoppers regularly compare items from the two stores and debate their merits. Some see no difference, while others claim Jysk products are less sturdy, though both chains import most of their goods from China anyway.

Jysk makes no effort to conceal the similarities between itself and Ikea. “There is room for two or three Scandinavian partners in Canada as long as you stay in your quality and price range,” says Kristjansson. “The strategy is not to go around Ikea or on top of them, it’s just to go with them, and has been from day one.” It helps that Jysk stores, at around 20,000 square feet, are tiny by comparison. The Ikea store in Coquitlam could fit seven hockey rinks. As such, Jysk is able to target smaller markets like Kamloops, B.C., Lethbridge, Alta., and, later this year, Kitchener and Barrie in Ontario. “There might be room for 20 Ikeas in Canada, but there’s room for 200 Jysks,” he says.

All’s fair in love and knock-down furniture, it seems. In a statement, Ikea spokeswoman Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick said the company welcomes the competition. “While other retailers may have products that compete with parts of the Ikea offer, our clear point of difference is the width and depth of our range with over 8,500 products,” she said, adding Ikea will soon open a new store in Winnipeg and replace stores in Ottawa and Richmond, B.C., with ones twice the size.
Well, that, and the Swedish meatballs. With Jysk’s razor-thin margins, the company says its sole focus is to sell inexpensive home furnishings, and there are no plans to open in-store restaurants or sell food like its larger rival. Not even Danishes.




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Jysk: the poor man’s Ikea

  1. "The Poäng rocking chair, another famous standby at the Swedish retailer, has a doppelgänger at Jysk named the Kastrup that can be had for 30 per cent less" and the Poäng's design was lifted in the 1970s from Yngve Ekstrom's 1950's "Lamino" chair (which is better looking and much more comfortable, by the by… that, and ten times more expensive)

  2. "The Poäng rocking chair, another famous standby at the Swedish retailer, has a doppelgänger at Jysk named the Kastrup that can be had for 30 per cent less" and the Poäng's design was lifted in the 1970s from Yngve Ekstrom's 1950's "Lamino" chair (which is better looking and much more comfortable, by the by… that, and ten times more expensive)

  3. No difference….they are both made in China….

  4. No difference….they are both made in China….

  5. Its nice to say anything to big time store as JONATHAN say no difference'''''''''''''''''' they are both made in china
    who screw poor mans jobs here in Canada and USA cheap goods cheap quality abusing environment is there any one who is there help home grown Canadian or USA product and services
    what bothers me, i am partially victim of china its not i am alone about close to 300 person lost the jobs directly could be in 1000 in chain reaction in Toronto when Phantom industry closed its door on Weston road Toronto after operating for 58 years and holding 65% of the market in Canada once I worked for 20 years as a Research and developer and design programer The market is huge in billions in both Canada and USA alone according to some magazine on search engine i read Phantom produced close to 12 million pairs of hosiery a year, imagine the labour force
    (just for reference to the general Canadian public 99% of the socks manufacturers in Toronto stopped manufacturing
    operating as usual depending on out sourcing specially China anyone to talk about this?I am no against any nation but think about our kids here

  6. Its nice to say anything to big time store as JONATHAN say no difference'''''''''''''''''' they are both made in china
    who screw poor mans jobs here in Canada and USA cheap goods cheap quality abusing environment is there any one who is there help home grown Canadian or USA product and services
    what bothers me, i am partially victim of china its not i am alone about close to 300 person lost the jobs directly could be in 1000 in chain reaction in Toronto when Phantom industry closed its door on Weston road Toronto after operating for 58 years and holding 65% of the market in Canada once I worked for 20 years as a Research and developer and design programer The market is huge in billions in both Canada and USA alone according to some magazine on search engine i read Phantom produced close to 12 million pairs of hosiery a year, imagine the labour force
    (just for reference to the general Canadian public 99% of the socks manufacturers in Toronto stopped manufacturing
    operating as usual depending on out sourcing specially China anyone to talk about this?I am no against any nation but think about our kids here

  7. its a wake up call help Canadian Farmers manufacturing Industries and service industries buy asking question
    for where ever whatever service you get IS IT MADE IN CANADA could be we pay couple of cents more for Canadian product and services but remember the quality and employment it could generate dont think what i could do alone a A DROP OF WATER CAN MAKE A MIGHTY OCEAN

  8. its a wake up call help Canadian Farmers manufacturing Industries and service industries buy asking question
    for where ever whatever service you get IS IT MADE IN CANADA could be we pay couple of cents more for Canadian product and services but remember the quality and employment it could generate dont think what i could do alone a A DROP OF WATER CAN MAKE A MIGHTY OCEAN

  9. I do agree that the Poang chairs are like the best thing that IKEA ever sold, I think they may go back to 1972. We have two with ottomans, and they are fantastic after 5-years. However, when it comes to bookcases, I would choose neither one, for they are made from particle board. If they are loaded with books, within one year, the shelves are bending due to strain. For strength, longevity, you have to go with real wood. Though both dealers deal with this stuff, I find JYSK has more wooden products.

    A JYSK, they have 100% wooden bookcases, which are very reasonable pricewise, and after two years, no buckling, no strain. It does not take much effort to buy pre-finished wooden panels that are made in Canada from RONA or Home Depot, with hardware to make yourself some bookcases that suits your needs, and being wood, can be finished in a number of ways. If you have no saw at home, they can cut the panels for you.

  10. I do agree that the Poang chairs are like the best thing that IKEA ever sold, I think they may go back to 1972. We have two with ottomans, and they are fantastic after 5-years. However, when it comes to bookcases, I would choose neither one, for they are made from particle board. If they are loaded with books, within one year, the shelves are bending due to strain. For strength, longevity, you have to go with real wood. Though both dealers deal with this stuff, I find JYSK has more wooden products.

    A JYSK, they have 100% wooden bookcases, which are very reasonable pricewise, and after two years, no buckling, no strain. It does not take much effort to buy pre-finished wooden panels that are made in Canada from RONA or Home Depot, with hardware to make yourself some bookcases that suits your needs, and being wood, can be finished in a number of ways. If you have no saw at home, they can cut the panels for you.

  11. Jysk is a murdering company who is able to sell cheaply because they use and abuse human beings. If you shop there you are an accessory to murder, murder and rape, and child labor!

    • Wth? Where’s your evidence? Don’t just randomly post weird accusations

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