Sainsbury’s rebuilds Habitat with ecommerce strategy

habitatSainsbury’s is giving its Habitat brand a major online makeover with plans to close its flagship Tottenham Court Road store – which first opened its doors in 1966 – and relaunch through Argos, as well as in Sainsbury’s outlets in the new year.

Sainsbury’s acquired Habitat as part of its £1.4bn deal for the Home Retail Group in 2016, which also included Argos. However, while Argos outlets have been opened in many Sainsbury’s stores – with more planned – the Habitat brand has played second fiddle until now.

But the group is currently trialling a small collection of Habitat furniture, with a further rollout planned for spring 2021 and the full range released by the end of the year. The new broader ranges will be available in Sainsbury’s and Argos stores, as well as online on Argos’ and Habitat’s websites.

Habitat is currently planning on creating furniture display areas in the bigger Sainsbury’s stores, while its outlets in Westfield, Brighton and Leeds will relaunch as showrooms. It is also trialling a video consultation service where customers can be connected with experts in-store to shop remotely.

Sainsbury’s trading director for clothing, home and furniture Rebecca Hitchings told Retail Week that Sainsbury’s has already got a major market share across home and furniture. “We will just bring it all under the Habitat brand,” she added.

Nectar data is likely to be at the heart of the strategy, as Sainsbury’s, Argos and Habitat, along with clothing brand Tu, have been working closely with the loyalty scheme to get a clearer picture of their customers.

Sainsbury’s already gathers data from multiple sources; it has over 18.5 million members of the Nectar scheme and claims to have 33 million customer records at its disposal. It also has a partnership with both Accenture and Google to implement machine learning technology to identify what customers want and the trends driving their purchasing decisions.

Founded in 1964 by the late Sir Terence Conran, Habitat revolutionised British furniture retail, bringing design and style into the drab post-war market.

It expanded rapidly in the Seventies before floating on the London Stock Exchange in 1981 and merging with Mothercare Group to form Habitat Mothercare Group. It then bought Heal’s and Richard Shops and, in 1986, the company merged with British Home Stores to form Storehouse.

But by 2011 it had all gone pear-shaped through a succession of poor management and the company was flogged off and put into liquidation, with all but three UK Habitat stores closed. The brand and the London stores were then run by Home Retail Group, until Sainsbury’s came knocking.

However, Habitat has plenty of of heritage when it comes to online shopping; it launched its first ecommerce site in November 2009.

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