I’ve always written about designers but its probably about time I looked at how it translates onto the high street.
Its been a very tough time for retail in the UK; especially so in the Home sector. In June the much loved Habitat, created by Terence Conran 47 years ago, went into administration with only its London stores remaining and the brand being sold to Homebase (a DIY chain). The idea that a brand such as Habitat, which has nurtured many talented designers including Tom Dixon should be sold off to Homebase; not know for any style sense, was a real shock to the loyal Habitat followers.
So what next for the design literate consumer? Can you really lump good design into a store that is basically a badly lit warehouse as is the feared fate of dumping Habitat into Homebase?
Well retailer Next invited me to have a look at a new store concept at Shoreham near Brighton that they hope will appeal to interior enthusiasts as well as Next core customer.
Its their first venture into creating a Home store and its a huge step up from the conventional DIY warehouse. I’m using this comparison because they offer paint by Dulux, a number of DIY tools, flooring and a gardening section. The first thing noticed was the light – it was natural and flooded deep into the store. It made viewing the Dulux paints so much easier, how on earth you’re supposed to look at colours under artificial light? No so here.
The garden section was also a huge difference from the usual dull garden centre choices – I was particularly impressed with this section mainly because of the plants. They were selected to fit into room sets which makes sense; we think of gardens as additional rooms so why not select plants in this way.
Moving back inside the home here is a pick of a range products from Next. I think you can see they’ve taken inspiration from designers. Theres a bit of a Jaime Hayon look to the Bardot coffee table, (pictured above) a bit of Moooi in the bunny light (1st image). Its rather like when you see a fashion magazine that shows you the couture piece and then the affordable retail version. All in all its an interesting customer focused concept, deliberately designed to take some of the frustration out of shopping for the Home. Its not a huge IKEA bunker that leads you down a long path to find the bay that doesn’t contain the 1 item you came for.
Other major UK retailers have also changed their tactics in selling to interior enthusiasts. John Lewis have collaborated with Ercol to produce limited edition furniture. And Marks & Spencer have brought in designer Marcel Wanders to breath new life into their home area. We may have lost one design institution in Habitat but there are others lining up to reinvigorate the market.
Pictured below Kane Light