Australian homewares specialist House is plotting an assault on the UK market, Retail Week can reveal.
It aims to open its first tranche of shops by April 2018 and will also launch a transactional ecommerce platform after identifying the UK as its preferred market to kick-start an overseas push.
House, which has 104 stores in its native Australia, describes itself as a kitchen, cooking, dining and entertaining specialist.
The retailer’s stores typically carry 4,000 core SKUs including cookware, glassware, small electrical appliances, knives and crockery.
Its Australian website sells an additional 8,000 lines, including products in the bathroom, bedroom, décor and pet categories.
House said its stores aim to “inspire customers to cook and create and entertain at home,” with service and customer interaction forming a key part of its proposition.
It gives all new store managers and assistant store managers AUS$8,000 of products for them to use at home so that they “know the product backwards” and can have “passionate” and personalised discussions with shoppers.
House’s arrival would make it the latest in a string of Australian retailers to land in the UK.
Children’s stationery operator Smiggle opened its 100th store earlier this year, while the likes of Bunnings, Typo, Honey Birdette, Kikki.K and Lovisa have all launched on these shores during the past three years.
Global Retail Brands executive chairman Steven Lew told Retail Week he was “pumped” to be bringing House to the UK after visiting almost 100 potential locations up and down the country over the past 18 months.
“We want a sustainable product. We are not about putting a showcase on Oxford Street. We want the first store to be the same as the 75th store.”
Steven Lew, Global Retail Brands
In his first ever media interview, Lew said: “Over the last couple of years we’ve looked at different markets and different markets internationally, watching the traffic flow, footfall, shopping habits, the internet – and the UK seemed like a very good fit for us.
“We think 75 stores is a safe number, but it will be opportunity-led. We are not fixed on that number. If we can’t get the right stores and we end up with 50, then that’s still a good job.
“Likewise, if we find 90 great stores then we’ll have 90. So long as the market is there we will keep opening. We like to under-promise and over-deliver.
“But we want a sustainable product. We are not about putting a showcase on Oxford Street. We want the first store to be the same as the 75th store.”
Asked if there was any concern about entering the UK amid ongoing political uncertainty, Lew said: “There’s always concern, you’ve got to have a gamble, as long as it’s calculated.
“You’ve got to be calculated in what you do and we think that the UK customer will very much like what we’ve got to offer.
“We want to become a household name in the UK as the go-to name for cooking and entertaining.
“But if you think you can pick up your concept from another continent, bring it to the UK and expect it to work straight off the bat, that’s not going to happen.”
“We want to become a household name in the UK as the go-to name for cooking and entertaining.”
Steven Lew, Global Retail Brands
Lew added: “Some retailers come here with a cookie-cutter approach. We don’t do cookie cutter.
“We are not coming here thinking it’s easy, but we are not scared of hard work. We already have a team here in the UK who will be guiding us on tweaking the product to fit what the UK customer wants.”
House has instructed MMX Retail’s Nick Symons and Alex Peck to find stores of around 3,500 sq ft in size in shopping centres and retail parks across the country.
Symons said: “We have already received some excellent feedback from the meetings we have had with some of the major UK landlords, who we have introduced to the House concept in the last 24 hours.
“Their strong trading history over the last 40 years, combined with their customer service levels, product delivery and the passion of the whole team has shown that House will create a new strong draw to a wide range of retail venues across the UK over the coming years.”