The IKEA store in Helsinki, Finland, was full of customers that day back in 1997. Being a textile technologist at Children’s IKEA at the time, Carina Ingelsten ran a course about safety for a group of IKEA co-workers. ”I lifted up a teddy bear and pulled on the legs and arms to show how well they are sewn in place. When I pulled on the plastic eye, something happened that shouldn't – the eye came off”, says Carina. This was a major setback for Children's IKEA, but it was a setback that would lead to important safety improvements.
All soft toys were removed from the store as Carina tried to call her colleagues in Sweden.
”It was a Saturday, so it wasn't that easy to get a hold of people, but in the end Jörgen Svensson, my manager at Children's IKEA, answered and we succeeded in stopping global sales of our soft toys”.
Jörgen remembers the call. The fact that the eye came off despite all risk analyses and safety checks was very serious. Still, in hindsight, he still sees that it led to something really good.
”Thanks to what happened, we learned to systematize safety work even more. We established clearer procedures and areas of responsibility”.
The incident also led to the decision to not use plastic eyes at all. Embroidered eyes were not only safer, they also proved to give more character and personality to the toys. Annie Huldén, a designer who has created many soft toys over the years, agrees.
”The eyes are very important for a soft toy and plastic eyes easily seem too symmetrical and stale, while embroidered eyes are easier to vary in terms of the design, the size of pupils and the eyelashes.”
Soft toys at Children's IKEA are loved by children throughout the world. It's a loved friend to play with and find comfort with - and which parents can always feel secure about.