Sainsbury’s has unveiled the first mini-Habitat, in its Nine Elms store, and plans others in Reading, Solihull, Epsom and St Albans.

With the first of five Habitat store-in-stores now open, the grocer is poised to install the next four branches by early 2017, Retail Week can reveal.

Sainsbury’s launched the first mini Habitat - measuring 2,000 sq ft - at its Nine Elms flagship on Wandsworth Road, London, following its £1.4bn acquisition of Home Retail Group last month.

It is hoped that the five concessions in Sainsbury’s stores, along with Habitat’s three standalone shops, will drive online and offline brand awareness and bolster multichannel growth. 

The mini-Habitats, which will range from between 1,400 and 2,000 sq ft, are also aimed at increasing online shopper confidence, because they offer consumers the opportunity to touch and feel products in convenient locations before ordering.

Around 600 products are available across Habitat’s furniture, upholstery, lighting, homewares and textiles ranges at the Nine Elms branch. Customers are also able to order from Habitat’s full 4,500 product portfolio on its website in-store, using integrated digital screens and iPads.

Habitat managing director Clare Askem said: “This new relationship with Sainsbury’s offers the Habitat brand significant growth potential.

“We’ve seen our brand evolve rapidly over the last few years and the opportunity to create a new network of local stores with a new national partner that will support our multichannel business strategy is a really exciting prospect.

“We’ll be working closely with Sainsbury’s on these pilot stores to understand the full potential of this format and gauge customer reaction, but I’m confident that our brand will connect with Sainsbury’s shoppers and make Habitat more accessible to shoppers both on the high street and online.”

Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe, who snapped up the homewares specialist from Home Retail as well as Argos, said: “This is the start of an exciting new phase for us and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to open the first mini-Habitat so quickly in our new flagship store at Nine Elms.

“Habitat is a fantastic, iconic brand which I’m sure will be very popular with Sainsbury’s customers who will benefit from being able to shop across all of our brands under one roof.”