Habitat has just opened a standalone store in the extension to the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, its first such branch in a decade.
You might expect it, as you would its mall neighbour Heal’s, to be filled with better-end ‘big ticket’ items.
In fact, it may be the case that both Habitat and Heal’s have opened stores in which ‘big-ish’ tickets are the order of the day.
A look around both emporia reveals that the bulk of the two offers are actually about small items, and large pieces of furniture are conspicuously thin on the ground.
“These notionally big-ticket stores are relatively small and therefore it’s a case of making a virtue of necessity”
These shops are as much about better-end impulse purchasing as, say, drooling your way around the local Hotel Chocolat store and then snapping something up.
For big-ticket retailers, the trick it would seem is judicious editing, and in this instance it means keeping the semblance of being a retailer where you can buy beds, tables and suchlike but where the reality is that the overwhelming majority of shoppers will be looking for glassware, crockery, living-room rugs and similar.
The big-ticket stuff is, of course, available online, but these notionally big-ticket stores are relatively small and therefore it’s a case of making a virtue of necessity with the largest items being, effectively, window dressing.
Little by little
Taking big-ticket stores and making them smaller is not confined to Habitat and Heal’s. Ikea is poised to launch a small-format store on Tottenham Court Road this autumn, and if it is anything like the one that opened in Madrid this summer, it will specialise in one of the furniture giant’s categories and make much of it.
In Madrid, it is living rooms, and the city hosts a second mini-Ikea that is just about bedrooms. Specialisation and home delivery are what set these stores apart (home delivery forms a major part of the proposition) – collecting flat-pack furniture in central London or Madrid is problematical.
“It’s a matter of thinking big, acting small and being appropriate”
Home delivery and a little of the big stuff, along with a great deal of the smaller stuff than would formerly have been the case, seem to be the components of good furniture and homewares retailing at present.
The balance between big window dressing and smaller items to sell in a city-centre or mall setting is a tricky one to strike.
But Heal’s, Habitat and Ikea, from perhaps different starting points, all appear to be asking shoppers to accept that you can’t have everything in a smaller shop – and perhaps consumers don’t want that anyway.
It’s a matter of thinking big, acting small and being appropriate.