Habitat will close its flagship store on the Tottenham Court Road in London after more than 50 years on the street dubbed the ‘Mecca for furniture’.
The store, opened by visionary designer Sir Terence Conran in 1966, revolutionised homes by introducing contemporary European products to a mass audience.
In the last decade Habitat has struggled to keep up with cheaper and more fashionable rivals such as Ikea.
End of an era: Habitat is to close its flagship store on the Tottenham Court Road after more than 50 years on the street
Current owner Sainsbury’s has plans to revitalise the brand by moving its products online and introducing cheaper ranges to be sold in supermarkets.
It will close the Tottenham Court Road store and its shop in Finchley Road, north London early next year, putting dozens of jobs at risk.
Habitat’s first store on the Fulham Road, was at the heart of 1960s ‘Swinging London’, and its modern designs wooed middle-class shoppers escaping post-war austerity.
It enjoyed more than two decades at the forefront of retail, introducing flat-pack furniture and other novelties such as duvets.
Conran used the brand to build a retail empire, acquiring the Heal’s furniture brand and running Next, British Home Stores and Mothercare.
When he died in September this year, aged 88, the Design Museum, which he founded, said he had ‘a greater impact than any other designer of his generation, revolutionising everyday life in contemporary Britain’.
Habitat’s position at the head of British interior design started to be challenged in the late 1980s when Ikea landed in the UK, bringing cheaper and fresher designs.
The store was opened by visionary designer Sir Terence Conran (pictured) in 1966
In 1992 Conran sold the chain, denying it the creative force that many saw as crucial to its success, and its popularity waned further as rivals DFS, Dunelm and Ikea grew.
It has limped along since 2011 when its then owners, Hilco, a firm specialising in distressed companies, placed it into administration.
In 2016 Sainsbury’s bought Habitat, along with Argos and Homebase, in a deal worth £1.4billion.
Retail expert Richard Hyman: ‘That store is iconic, so it’s very sad, and only a matter of months after Terence Conran’s death.
‘Habitat has been a very important brand. It will become a brand in the corner of large supermarkets but not much more than that.’
Habitat will be left with 11 concessions in Sainsbury’s and stores in Brighton, Leeds and west London, which will be furniture showrooms.
The revamp will see cheaper items, including cushions and vases, sold in supermarkets, while shoppers can buy items such as sofas, rugs and furniture online. Bosses were keen to allay fears that the brand is going downmarket, – many current designers will stay.
Simon Roberts, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: ‘We want to bring it to millions of new customers. We’ll really open up Habitat and make it relevant and accessible to more customers.’
Sainsbury’s said: ‘Over the years the [Tottenham Court Road] store has provided inspiration to millions, but as the retail market continues to change it’s important we adapt and focus investment so we can meet our customers’ needs as they increasingly want to shop with us online.’
This month Sainsbury’s said it would close 417 of its 518 Argos stores after almost all its sales moved online during the pandemic.