Thursday, 14 July 2011

Endangered habitat

Last week, the Guardian commented that Habitat's demise has been the result of an identity which failed to renew itself and respond to an 'increasingly crowded high street'. 

Terence Conran reinvigorated British homes in the 60s, introducing bright colours and smooth, contemporary designs to the market place where three piece suites and hefty, dense, dark furniture had reigned since the end of WW2. His first store opened in Fulham Road, West London in 1964 and gave customers new ideas on how to decorate rooms with mock up displays created from affordable, modern designs. In 2009, Conran told the BBC, "It was furniture, and chine, and glass, and kitchen. All the things but with a certain look. It had a philosophy. It had abundance in it. It was like a sort of market place. It was a buzzy shop." Stores quickly appeared in France, germany and Spain too.

However, Habitat struggled to succeed when many shops began to copy the idea and price Habitat out of the market. In 1992 Habitat was bought by the Ikano Group, the owners of Ikea but continued to struggle. On 24th June it was announced that all but 3 of Habitat's UK stores are being put into administration.

In a British market place where retailers source their products from the same Eastern based factories and push prices as low as possible, it seems that Habitat needs to reconnect with new, designers who create smaller quantities of better quality products. Hopefully we'll see a new era of highly crafted, truly unique product!

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