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Terence Conran (b. 1931)

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Ambrose Heal (1872—1959) shopkeeper and furniture designer


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(established 1964)

The first Habitat shop was launched in 1964 in London's Fulham Road by British design and lifestyle entrepreneur Terence Conran, who recognized the changing consumer patterns signalled by the emergence of the fashionable youth‐oriented boutiques of Carnaby Street and the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. He sought to provide enhanced opportunities to purchase stylish modern design at affordable prices, a market sector which traditional British furniture retailers had largely ignored. Catering for the young professional market sector, Habitat sourced well‐designed products from a number of countries, whether cheap, brightly coloured enamelled jugs and mugs from Poland or furniture from Italy. The Fulham Road shop was the first of a number of British outlets that totalled more than 30 by 1980, in addition to the opening of several branches overseas following the launch of a Paris store in 1973. Habitat began its mail order catalogue operations in 1969, with a print run of 300,000, a figure that had risen five times within a decade. Drive‐away stores were also introduced, first at Wallingford and then, in 1977, on a more ambitious scale at Wythenshawe, near Manchester, with play areas for children, although these were modest by way of comparison with IKEA, a company Habitat had sought to emulate. By the 1980s Habitat was a global business with outlets in Europe, the United States, and Japan, merging with Mothercare and Heal's and being launched on the Stock Exchange in 1981. However, in the difficult economic climate of the 1980s the company began to lose its way until it was taken over by IKEA in 1995. With the arrival of Tom Dixon as art director in 1998 the company began to recapture the sense of freshness and innovation that had marked its earlier years under Conran. See also Gregory, Oliver.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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