Photos courtesy of Habitat/Almana Maples
One of the best-known European names in contemporary interior design plans to open its first store in Qatar early next year as part of a strategy to expand throughout the Gulf.
The new Habitat store, which will be on the Airport Road, lost momentum after a warehouse fire earlier this year gutted its stock. But it is now set to open its doors around February 2015, its CEO has confirmed to Doha News.
The 1,800sq meter Doha showroom and shop will be one of the largest in the Habitat network, which currently operates in 16 countries.
In addition to furniture and furnishings, Habitat Qatar will also offer interior design advice and provide an assembly service and free delivery. By June next year, the company hopes to have its online shopping service operating in Qatar.
The new shop will launch nearly two years after IKEA finally opened its doors to an eager Qatar public and will offer additional choice for those looking for more affordable, pared-back furnishings.
The opening of the Qatar store coincides with the 50th anniversary of the brand, which was launched by Sir Terrence Conran in 1964 with the aim of providing affordable, contemporary design.
Due to financial trouble, all but three of the UK stores were put into administration in 2011. The international business was sold to the French Cafom group, which is now on the verge of a new wave of expansion in the Gulf with plans to open nine new stores in the coming five years.
Speaking to Doha News, Habitat’s CEO Vincent Destailleur said the group chose Qatar as the inaugural store in the region following a successful tie-up with the established Almana Group.
Habitat first announced its plans to launch in Qatar in March last year, and had hoped to have its Doha store open by this summer.
However, a fire that ripped through a Coca Cola soft drinks warehouse in Doha’s industrial area in mid-August also destroyed neighboring storage sites – one of which was holding Habitat’s stock for its new shop.
“Everything was ruined. We had no option but to postpone the store’s opening, but we have been rebuilding stock and I am desperately waiting for the new store to open in the first quarter of 2015 – around February,” Destailleur said.
A small range of Habitat lines have been available through Almana Maples, by Midmac roundabout since then, as a temporary measure until the new store is ready.
Destailleur said the company is also in talks to launch a second Qatar store in the under-construction Mall of Qatar on the Dukhan Road, which is scheduled to open towards the end of 2015.
Discussing plans for the chain’s expansion through the Gulf region, Destailleur said:
“When we bought the company (Habitat) it was in bad shape. Our strategy was to build with opportunity.
We met Al Mana, who wanted to diversify into home accessories, and we had been looking at this region for some time, so it was the perfect opportunity.”
Destailleur said he was aware of problems some retailers face getting steady stock supplies into Qatar and had been making plans to head off the challenge.
“We have tripled the quantities of products we estimate we will need initially and these have already been shipped to Qatar, so we are confident we will be able to meet customers’ needs,” he added.
Will you be going to the new store? Thoughts?