Ikea to Pay Into Worker Pensions in Effort to Keep Staff Sweet

As Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) faces a worker backlash over pay and working conditions, Swedish retailer Ikea Group is stepping up rewards to keep staff happy.

The flat-pack furniture chain said today it will contribute to the pension plans of employees who have been in their job for at least five years. The initiative follows this year’s introduction of a performance-driven bonus system as Ikea seeks to strengthen its credentials as an employer.

Called Tack!, meaning thank you in Swedish, Ikea’s pension incentive is aimed at increasing loyalty among the chain’s 136,000 workers worldwide. The move comes only weeks after some Wal-Mart employees held demonstrations across the U.S. to demand higher pay and better working conditions.

Ikea “is looking long-term, it’s sending out a message saying we’re looking after your long-term wellbeing and we’re thinking about you for the future,” Richard Perks, director of retail research at Mintel in London, said on the phone. “It’s tying people in, in a way.”

Ikea’s pension contribution will apply to employees across all markets, with full-time workers getting the same amount regardless of position or salary level. The retailer will initially set aside 100 million euros ($137 million) to fund the program, with future financing to be decided annually.

“We believe that these two programs will strengthen the Ikea Group as a great place to work, today and in the future,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Agnefjaell said in a statement.

The retailer, which with 303 box-like stores in 26 countries owns the majority of the world’s Ikea outlets, has been working for two years to develop employee loyalty plans, Ikea Group spokeswoman Josefin Thorell said by phone.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katarina Gustafsson in Stockholm at kgustafsson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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