Argos has bought Habitat and just four stores will be left trading. Of all the High Street closures, this is the one that makes me saddest.
Habitat should have survived. Apart from Ikea, there is no other place for people who want stylish furniture at a decent price to shop. Dwell is full of tat and should be napalmed and Heal’s, at the top end, is really in poor shape. How could Habitat have failed so badly? Short-sighted private equity and management instability are probably to blame.
Setting up my first home, Habitat was simply the best place in town if you loved design. I bought my first house in 1975 when Britain’s attempts at modern furniture were dire. Then I discovered Habitat, stacked full of product, bright beautiful colours, noisy and incredibly stylish, there wasn’t a duff product in sight.
The Habitat catalogue was eagerly anticipated and I slavishly tried to replicate my favourite room sets at home. I cursed myself for not being tidy enough, or not having big enough rooms, quite forgetting that these were sets in a photographer’s studio, not real rooms. Why didn’t my house look like the catalogue?
Much later, Lynda Relph-Knight of Design Week asked me to interview Terence Conran for a series of articles I was doing on ‘My Design Heroes’. I couldn’t sleep for weeks. On walking into Terence’s office I was horrified and heartened to see that his office didn’t look like a room set either. His bookshelves were untidy and his ashtray full of cigar butts. Well, if his place didn’t look like the catalogue I need never bother again.
I will miss Habitat and don’t have a lot of confidence that Argos will understand what products to put in the store – they don’t have much of a track record after all.