Panoramic view of a white delivery van navigating a mountainous road in Georgia. A white delivery van navigates a mountainous road in Georgia.

IKEA International Sales

The extra mile

Not even a remote, mountaintop vineyard in Georgia is too far for the team working hard to bring IKEA's well-designed, functional and affordable products to those in countries without an IKEA store.

It’s a bumpy, winding road to the Tsinandali Estate winery in Georgia, about two hours’ drive from the capital Tbilisi. The IKEA wine glasses in the back of the truck clink safely in their paper wrappings. They’re carefully packed up for the long trip, along with the outdoor furniture, plates, textiles, and much more that will make the public areas of the winery shine.

It’s the latest order delivered by our International Sales team, based at the Inter IKEA Systems office in Delft, the Netherlands. The team works directly with customers that want our IKEA products for their project… but don’t have an IKEA store in their country yet. Last year they shipped orders to more than 30 countries.

“Being part of the renovation of this winery hotel was a great experience,” says International Sales team member Sabrine. “Our customer had a really clear vision for the outdoor space where his guests could taste the wine, sit outside while the sun went down, and enjoy local produce. We designed an outdoor dining and bar space including large furniture pieces plus all the details like tableware and solar lighting to make the most of the outdoors in the evening.”

The team organises one-on-one planning, ordering, and shipping for each order. Usually they work with hotels, restaurants, offices, and other businesses. But no two customer orders are the same, and the team never know who will get in touch next.

“From renovations of private houses in Brazil to furnishing new offices in Vietnam or working with real estate developers on small projects in Costa Rica, we’ve done it all,” says Sabrine. “Recently I finished a project with a glamping location in Kenya, and soon I’m starting one with a restaurant high up in the mountains in Peru. I’m always excited to see who my next customer will be, and where.”

"Each project has its own distinctive features which make our job thrilling and at the same time challenging. We’re pretty determined to find the best way to get to all our customers." - Sabrine

The team of six has over 102 years of IKEA experience between them and speak six languages, which comes in handy when they need to communicate with customers, shipping companies, and customs staff all over the world. And constantly working through complex import procedures and organising transport to remote areas means the team is used to a challenge.

“Each project has its own distinctive features which make our job thrilling and at the same time challenging. We’re pretty determined to find the best way to get to all our customers,” says Sabrine with a laugh. “We’re also very creative about getting all we need to make sure our customers get the products they want within their project timeline.”

Because there’s no store for the customer to browse in their own country, the team meet them online, getting to know their needs and walking them through the range. Often that means actually walking through the store on a video call, sharing ideas, colours, room designs, and describing products from the Showroom at IKEA Delft.

Some customers have been to an IKEA store in another country before, some haven’t. A few customers planning large-scale projects have even made the trip to IKEA Delft to meet the team and make their product selections in person. When they need extra help creating a design from scratch, the team organise one-on-one sessions with IKEA interior designers. “Sometimes customers know exactly what they want, other times they’re looking for our design advice and want to create a plan together,” says Sabrine. "They get in touch because they know we have the exact products they need, and they know we offer good quality, beautiful design for an affordable price. And that’s rare – to get everything they need, responsibly made, all from one place.”

“Shipping to diverse countries enabled us to understand the requirements per country and prepare each export with dedication and care. We work together with great partners and suppliers to make sure we get the best prices and processes for our customers.”

So, what is it about the job that gives Sabrine the biggest thrill? “My favourite projects are the ones that we do end-to-end, from design to advising our customers on shipping to their countries, understanding their needs, expectations, and limitations to make it happen. Taking the journey with them, selecting the products, looking for alternatives, organising the transport, and finally getting there. It means a lot to me to see happy customers' enjoying IKEA products.”