In competition with the companies Heymat, Swims and Vestre, the 2020 Export Award was given to Norwegian furniture manufacturer Ekornes, best known for its Stressless collection.
“2020 has been a special year. Closed markets and order shortages in March have now turned into record order intake and growth in all markets. We are very pleased to be named export company of the year”, says Øystein Vikingsen Fauske, Executive Vice President of Ekornes.
For several decades, the furniture manufacturer Ekornes has consolidated its position as a solid export company, with carefully selected distribution channels that extend throughout the world. Today, the export share is as high as 90 percent, with the USA and Germany as the most important markets.
The manufacturer in Sykkylven is best known for its Stressless collection, which since 1971 has sold over 10 million seats.
After design company Fora Form relaunched the chair in 1994, it has sold a quarter of a million pieces at home and abroad.
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The Ekornes History
J.E. Ekornes Fjærfabrikk started production in 1934 with three employees and German-made machines. Furniture manufacturing was new to Sunnmøre which gave the founder, Jens Ekornes, his first customers. Soon after, springs were used in furniture and mattresses throughout Norway.
Jens Ekornes developed an interest in springs and mattresses, but he wanted them to differ from the heavy steel-spring mattresses on wooden frames. Once he understood how the springs worked, he went back to his factory and built the first Svane (Swan) mattress. New products and factories followed with a steadily increasing workforce.
Jens Ekornes presented his idea for internal springs at a major furniture exhibition in Ålesund. His springs were linked together by steel coils and could be used in mattresses and furniture cushions. Three versions of Svane mattresses were launched on the market.
Jens Ekornes traveled to the USA and worked in a mattress factory to learn about the trade. His brothers, Martin and Leif, looked after the business while he was away. Jens Ekornes bought American machinery to produce upholstered spring mattresses at a more reasonable price. The factory also started manufacturing wooden components for sofa beds and mattress bases.
Mattress production began. They also produced foamed plastic which became an important
element in the manufacturing process of Ekornes’ mattresses and furniture, including on the open market.
Ekornes launches their first collection of lounge furniture. They began marketing their brand and products with newsletters to every household in the country followed by an Ekornes catalog every year. At the end of the 1960s, mattress production moved from Sykkylven to Fetsund and they launched their first leather lounge furniture.
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Stressless was introduced in 1971, as the first recliner designed to meet your body’s need for movement and support when seated. The characteristic TV-recliner was a revolution in comfort and functionality, and soon became an international success.
Offering patented features, you won’t find on other recliners, from the glide system that follows your slightest movements, to the Plus™ system for correct neck and lumbar support in every position, Stressless® is still known as the ultimate recliner.
The first Stressless was launched in Norway and immediately became the first real TV chair. You could lean backwards and rest, watch TV in comfort or turn around to face the coffee table with one easy movement. The patented sliding system attracted a great deal of attention and is still unique.
In 1975, revenue of the Ekornes Group exceeded NOK 100 million. The following year, the Fetsund plant was destroyed by a fire. A new factory was built 1976-78. During this time, Ekornes group became the largest furniture manufacturer in Scandinavia. In 1978, Ekornes entered the computer age with an online computer system for order processing, invoicing, statistics, and production control.
1980: Stressless comfort had become an unconditional success. Sales of Stressless passed the magical limit of 100 million Norwegian Kroner.
1981: The characteristic wooden base is introduced The Stressless Royal recliner was the first model to have the characteristic wooden base.
1983: Export exceeded 100 million Norwegian Kroner and Stressless no. 500.000 was registered. The company’s success in the export market was rewarded in 1983 as Ekornes was awarded the Norwegian Export Prize.
Marketing to the USA began which became the largest export market for Ekornes. Various companies under the Ekornes umbrella and ownership structure were reorganized to enable one generation to pass on to the next. In 1984, the company turned 50 years old. By 1985, eight Ekornes factories existed in Norway and they acquired a company in West Germany.
1991: The patented Plus™ system was launched, with its pioneering automatic adjustment of the headrest and lumbar support. At last, people could read and watch TV leaning back in a recliner. Stressless consolidated its position as the most comfortable swivel recliner.
1993: The Stressless sofa was launched. This is based on the idea that people need to be able to move individually just as much when sitting in a sofa as in a recliner. The sales message became: ‘In a Stressless sofa, every seat is a Stressless’.
1994: The company turned 60 years old and manufacturing plants were reduced to four locations in Norway. Ekornes launched a new child chair concept called KIDDO and a new mattress series called Svane Goldline in 1998.
1995: The Stressless Senator was chosen by the Consumer Digest as the “Best Buy” in the US.
1996: Ekornes started to make the same design in two or three sizes. Stressless was the first recliner in the market to take into account that people with different builds have to have different chair sizes in order to sit comfortably.
1999: The sleep function is an extension of the unique Plus™ System. The user can choose whether the headrest is to be in the reading or sleeping mode when the chair is in the reclining position. Once more Stressless was the first to introduce a pioneering innovation.
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2001: Stressless and the Ekornes Collection began to be produced in matching designs. This allowed new opportunities for combining reclining and fixed-back furniture in an integrated layout. The idea was a hit worldwide. Stressless sales exceeded 1 billion Norwegian Kroner.
2002: The Stressless factory became Norway’s most robotized and automated production business. Sofas and chairs were presented as product families.
2003: A tailor-made home theatre set-up based on Stressless was launched. The concept was very well received throughout the world.
2004: The Ekornes factory at Sykkylven was extended by 30,000 square meters to comply with increased demand making 2,000 chairs per day. The factory is one of the most modern furniture factories in the world. Through extensive use of advanced robotics, the production capacity increased substantially. 2004 was also the year when the redesigned Stressless logo was introduced. Ekornes expands by opening showrooms in Las Vegas and Paris and markets to Russia, Spain, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Brazil, and more.
2005: Stressless Paradise was launched as the first low-back sofa with full Stressless functions. The goal over time is to convert all Ekornes sofas into Stressless sofas. At the same time, Ekornes Fairytale was introduced, a roomy and comfortable corner solution which also can be used separately. Both models quickly became popular worldwide.
In 2010, Ekornes was the first company to win two categories of the British interior design awards for “Best Overseas Furniture Manufacturer” and “Best Marketing Support”. Stressless turned 40 in 2011 with over 6.5 million seat units sold since 1971. Ekornes won more awards in Britain, Japan, and Hong Kong. The Svane mattress brand celebrated 75 years in 2012, the same year the new Stressless Office line launched. In 2014, the Stressless City and Stressless Metro launched with new designs and steel/aluminum bases.
Presently, Ekornes continues to automate production, innovate products and deliver high-quality furniture pieces all over the world!
2020 Export Award was given to Norwegian furniture manufacturer Ekornes.
All images © Ekornes