The world's biggest furniture retailer has come under heavy criticism in its home market Sweden after it airbrushed women out of its latest catalogue in Saudi Arabia, raising questions about its policies towards gender equality.
Ikea, famous for budget furniture in self-build flat-packs and huge stores, said it regretted removing the women from pictures in the annual booklet.
"It is not the local franchisee that has requested the retouch of the discussed pictures," franchiser Inter Ikea Group said. "We will naturally review our routines and working process to ensure that this will not happen again."
Franchises had the final say on the production of the catalogues, including pictures, Inter Ikea Systems spokeswoman Ulrika Englesson Sandman said.
Swedish Gender Equality Minister Nyamko Sabuni said companies needed to stick to their principles. "And if there is any country in the world that needs to know Ikea's values, it is Saudi Arabia. Therefore, it is a pity that it is there they choose to abandon part of their values, in this case equality," she told news agency TT.
Sweden's European Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson called the move "medieval", while Trade Minister Ewa Bjorling noted that women could not be airbrushed out of reality.