Habitat (retailer)

Habitat Retail Ltd, trading as Habitat is a retailer of household furnishings in the United Kingdom.

Habitat Retail Ltd
Limited company
Founded11 May 1964
FoundersTerence Conran and Philip Pollock
Number of locations
Three London flagship stores, one standalone in Leeds, one Mini Habitat inside Argos and six Mini Habitats inside Sainsbury's stores (July 2017), new store opened North Street Brighton November 2018
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Clare Askem (Managing Director)
Polly Dickens (Creative Director)
John Rogers (CEO Sainsbury's Argos)
ProductsHome accessories, furniture, upholstery
ParentSainsbury's Argos

Founded in 1964 by Sir Terence Conran, it merged with a number of other retailers in the 1980s to create Storehouse plc, before being sold to the Ikano Group, owned by the Kamprad family, in 1992. In December 2009 Habitat was bought by Hilco, a restructuring specialist. On 24 June 2011 the company was put into liquidation and all but three UK Habitat stores were closed in a deal to sell the indebted furniture chain, with the brand and the three London stores sold to Home Retail Group.[1] In September 2016, UK retailer Sainsbury's bought Home Retail Group, including Argos and Habitat, for £1.4 billion (about $1.85 billion).[2]



Sir Terence Conran founded Habitat in London in 1964, opening his own store to market his Summa range of furniture.[3] The first store was opened in Fulham Road in Chelsea[4] by Conran, his then wife Caroline, Philip Pollock and the model Pagan Taylor.[5] This store became the Habitat template, with its quarry tiled floor, whitewashed brick walls, white-painted wooden-slatted ceilings and spotlights creating a feeling of space and focusing attention on the product.[5] Conran has said the main reason for the shop's initial success was that Habitat was one of the few places that sold cheap pasta storage jars just as the market for dried pasta took off in the UK.[4]


The business expanded quickly in the UK throughout the 1960s and internationally with the first overseas store opening in 1973 in Paris.[3] Habitat also published a catalogue that showed a range of products grouped together in pleasant surroundings.[6]


In 1968 Habitat merged with the stationery retailer Ryman to form Ryman Conran.[7] The following year it purchased the business of Lupton Morton, which mostly supplied furniture to offices and corporations but also made pieces by other designers,[8] and in 1970 acquired the retail chain Straker-Bedser.[9]

By 1970 the turnover of the group had doubled since the merger with Habitat. Terence Conran however was disappointed that Habitat itself had not been expanded and offered to purchase Habitat from Ryman Conran along with Conran Associates and the remains of Lupton Morton. Ryman Conran did not highly value the Habitat chain and apparently thought it was making a loss, so agreed to the sale.[9] Ryman Conran retained Habitat's original factory in Thetford along with Conran Design Group.[10]

In 1981, the company's shares were floated on the London Stock Exchange[3] and in 1982 it merged with Mothercare Group to form Habitat Mothercare Group plc.[3] The now-listed company bought the furniture retailer Heal's and the Richard Shops fashion chain in 1983.[3] In 1986, the company merged with British Home Stores to form Storehouse plc.[3]

Subsequent buyouts

In 1992 Habitat was purchased from Storehouse by Ikano.[3] In October 2009, following several years of trading losses, the Kamprad family, which owns Ikano, put the company up for sale,[11] and it was sold to Hilco, a restructuring specialist, in December 2009 with the Kamprad family writing off the debts of the company and providing €50 million (£45 million) of working capital while Hilco paid about €15m.[12]


On 24 June 2011 Hilco, which had owned Habitat UK Ltd since December 2009, announced that it was putting the company into administration.[13] Home Retail Group (owner of Argos and Homebase) purchased the Habitat brand, three central London stores and the UK website.[14] The UK business was registered under the name Habitat Retail Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Home Retail Group. Home Retail Group retained about 100 staff at the London stores and around 50 in head office, including many of Habitat's in-house designers, buyers and merchandisers. Cafom, a company registered in France, purchased Habitat's European businesses.[15] By 11 September 2011, all other Habitat stores in the UK had been closed by Hilco with around 750 employees being made redundant.

Home Retail Group acquisition

The Home Retail Group acquired the three London stores in Tottenham Court Road, King's Road and Finchley Road and the transactional website. It then introduced mini Habitat stores within Homebase branches nationwide, beginning with Ruislip in October 2012, followed by Solihull, Ewell, Battersea, Horsham, Orpington, Leeds, Bracknell and Truro. By the end of 2013 Habitat said there would be 14 mini Habitat stores across the UK. Habitat had also begun to offer a selection of Habitat products in 200 Homebase and Argos stores nationwide and on the Argos and Homebase websites.

Habitat turns 50

To mark its 50th birthday in 2014, Habitat commissioned five past designers - Aaron Probyn, Simon Pengelly, Claire Norcross, Sarah Campbell & Shin Azumi - from its design studio to create a collection of celebratory products, as well as contemporary graphic artist James Joyce to create a one-off celebratory logo.

Purchase by Sainsbury's

In April 2016, Home Retail Group agreed to a £1.4bn takeover by UK retailer Sainsbury's. The deal included the sale of brands Argos and Habitat.[16] The acquisition completed on 2 September 2016. Before the acquisition Home Retail Group sold the Homebase brand to the Australian brand Wesfarmers and all Habitat branches within Homebase stores were subsequently closed.


Habitat has been under the leadership of managing director Clare Askem since 2011 and the in-house London design studio has been led by creative director Polly Dickens since 2012.

Current operations

Habitat currently has 17 UK stores. Three London flagship stores - Tottenham Court Road, Finchley Road and Westfield White City (Opened 2018) - one flagship store in Brighton (opened November 2018) - one standalone store in Leeds and twelve smaller 'Mini Habitat' format branches located in either Argos or Sainsbury's stores.

Habitat also has a transactional UK website, as well as offering a selection of Habitat products on the Argos website.

Habitat Stores

Habitat King's Road

The Habitat store on King's Road in London closed in 2018. This was because the building it had occupied since 1973 is being redeveloped under plans submitted by the landowner Cadogan Estates and approved by the Kensington & Chelsea Council.

Habitat Tottenham Court Road Re-design

In April 2016 Habitat unveiled a £1.5million refurbishment of its flagship Tottenham Court Road store. Designed by the Habitat in-house Design Studio, the new store featured a completely new look and layout for the brand with a stripped back design and monochrome colour palette to highlight Habitat's bright product collections.

2018 Store Openings

In 2018, the business opened two new standalone stores. One in Westfield White City as part of the extension of the shopping centre which was planned to attract more homeware and lifestyle brands. The other store was opened in Brighton, this was the location of one of Habitats most successful Homebase concessions.

Other Habitat Locations

Habitat's registered office is at the Sainsbury's Argos offices in Milton Keynes, however the business is predominantly based out of Saffron House, Farringdon. The businesses home delivery operation is based from Argos' Acton Gate warehouse. The customer services department are based in the Sainsbury's Argos call centre at Widnes, Cheshire.

Sainsbury's Group

Habitat is part of the Sainsbury's Group, specifically the Sainsbury's Argos business which runs all general merchandise and clothing operations for the Sainsbury's group, this includes Habitat, Argos, Sainsbury's Home products and TU Clothing. As a result of being part of this wider group customers can also purchase a wide range of Habitat products from Argos stores or online at Argos.co.uk or Argos.ie. Larger Sainsbury's supermarkets also have Habitat homewares available among their normal Sainsbury's Home stock.

E-commerce website

In January 2009, Habitat began planning a fully transactional web site to enter the online shopping market.[17] The site was launched in November 2009, based on an E-commerce application from BT Expedite, with a back-end by LShift, after a period when only a small number of products were available online.[18] Following feedback, the company announced a new website in January 2011, offering online delivery to UK, Germany and Republic of Ireland.[19]

Former operations

Homebase concessions

Up to September 2016, Habitat's then parent company, Home Retail Group, operated 84 mini-Habitat concessions in Homebase stores. With the demerger of Homebase from Home Retail Group to the Australian retailer Wesfarmers, all mini-Habitat concessions were removed from Homebase.

International operations

The company used to have stores in Galway and Dublin in the Republic of Ireland but these were closed down in 2008.[20] Habitat previously employed 1,574 staff and operated in 71 stores: 35 in the UK, 26 in France, five in Spain and five in Germany (as of October 2009).[11] The international operations are now run by Groupe Habitat, part of Cafom since 2011.

Product ranges

2017 Collaborations

May 2016 & April 2017: British fashion designer Henry Holland collaborates with UK design brand Habitat to launch his first interiors collection. Launching at Habitat’s Tottenham Court Road flagship store in London, the capsule collection of limited edition designs features a series of prints taken from the SS16 House of Holland season translated across a range of textiles and upholstery. Following its success, a second collection was launched in April 2017.

Jackson & Levine

June 2017: Supper club duo Laura Jackson and Alice Levine launch their debut homeware range with design brand Habitat. The capsule collection of hand-woven table and kitchen linens coincides with the launch of Jackson & Levine’s first book – Round to Ours – and has been designed to reflect the pair’s distinctive stylistic approach to their own East-End supper clubs.


  1. "Habitat stores enter administration as part of sale". BBC News. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2011.
  2. Sainsbury's takeover of Home Retail Group approved, Press Association news agency at BT news website, 22 July 2016 Archived 18 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine.Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  3. "Habitat UK Limited initial submission: store cards market investigation" (PDF). Competition Commission. 12 May 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  4. Maclean, Rory (15 July 2007). "Magical memory tour of London". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  5. Barnfield, Stacey (2004). "Habi Birthday". icBirmingham. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  6. Glancey, Jonathan (22 December 2001). "Old Habitats die hard". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  7. Conran, Terence (2016). My Life in Design, pp.76
  8. Powers, Alan (2017). John Morton Obituary. The Guardian, 10 May 2017. Available online at . Accessed 8 September 2017.
  9. Hendy, John et al (2010). European Cases in Strategic Management, pp.395
  10. Bayley, Stephen (2014). Rodney Fitch obituary. The Guardian, 10 November 2014. Available online at . Accessed 8 September 2017.
  11. Davey, Jenny (18 October 2009). "Swedes seek new home for ailing Habitat". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  12. Davey, Jenny; Ben Marlow (13 December 2009). "Swedes sell Habitat with £45m 'dowry'". The Times. Retrieved 13 December 2009.
  13. "Habitat stores enter administration as part of sale". BBC News. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  14. Shannon, Sarah (24 June 2011). "Home Retail Buys Habitat U.K. Brand Amid Chain's Administration". Bloomberg. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  15. Harrison, Nicola (8 July 2011). "Hilco sells Habitat European arm to Cafom Sa". Retail Week. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  16. "Sainsbury's wins battle to buy Argos". BBC News. 1 April 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  17. Mari, Angelica (2 July 2009). "Habitat gets a web site makeover". Computing. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  18. McEleny, Charlotte (12 November 2009). "Habitat adds to retail site as it extends push on social media". New Media Age. Retrieved 11 December 2009. (Subscription required.)
  19. Habitat (24 January 2011). "Habitat Announces the Launch of New Website" (Press release). PR Newswire. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  20. "Habitat closes in Dublin and Galway due to sales downturn". The Irish Times. 10 May 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
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