CASE STUDY: The Habitat comeback
Monday March 5 2018
Home furnishings retailer Habitat is firmly on the comeback trail with a whole new IT system and POS
Habitat is a brand that needs little introduction. Since its launch in 1964, the retailer has established itself as one of the most iconic names on the British high street and beyond.
Famous for cutting edge designs and high-quality products, Habitat is credited with helping to modernise British tastes in home decor, including introducing such exotic items as the duvet and flat pack furniture.
Like so many great names of British retail, the 2008 credit crunch and subsequent economic slump hit Habitat hard.
In 2011, the business was put into administration, resulting in the closure of all but three of its UK stores.
The story since, however, has been one of recovery for a great British brand. Home Retail Group, owners of Homebase and Argos, bought the remaining three Habitat stores in London along with the online business. Soon ‘Mini Habitat’ concessions in Homebase stores were rolled out nationwide, complimented by Habitat products being made available through Argos.
Then 2016 proved to be another pivotal year in the company’s history. First, Home Retail Group sold off its Homebase business, leading to the closure of all Habitat concessions. Then, a few months later, Home Retail Group was itself taken over by Sainsbury’s in a £1.4 billion deal.
As things stand, alongside its thriving digital business there are currently four standalone Habitat stores in the UK - three in London and one in Leeds - alongside 11 Mini Habitat stores within Sainsbury’s across the UK. More new stores are planned for 2018.
Firmly on the comeback trail, the future looks bright for a famous old name.
New Beginnings, New POS
All of the upheaval of the past year and half has created a number of operational challenges for Habitat. For one, the sale of Homebase meant the company had to migrate to a completely new IT system, and within a very short timeframe.
Andrew Pratt, Habitat’s business and IT change manager, worked on the project. “We operated on the Homebase system,” he explained, “so after the decision to sell, we had to move quickly. We were given an 18-month timeline, which is not long for a full IT migration.
“It threw up all sorts of challenges. We had to get a team together with the right third party partners to plan and deliver the new system in a very short space of time. And then there were cost pressures from within the Group, too.”
Part of the switch over would involve moving to a new point of sale system.
But in this area at least, Andrew explained, the sudden need to migrate was a blessing.
“We were still operating old IBM Toshiba tills which were at least 10 years old,” he said. “They were still running on Windows XP and the functionality was very painful.”
Habitat put a brief for a complete ERP system out to tender, and opted to go with enterprise software and IT services specialist Maginus. Maginus based its solution around Microsoft Dynamics AX, an integrated software platform which combines stock control, warehousing, merchandising, payments, business intelligence and retail functions.
While Dynamics AX offered a powerful and comprehensive solution, Habitat still needed new POS hardware capable of running the retail module. They asked Maginus for advice, and after weighing up a handful of suppliers, chose Aures to supply new terminals and peripherals for all stores and concessions.
Jason Southern, channel manager at Aures, has led the Habitat account. “We started working with Habitat still at an early stage of the system migration,” he said. “We have provided a complete end-to-end solution, from drawing up site plans and ripping out and disposing of the old POS hardware, to installing our own hardware, configuring the software and staging. We’ve also signed up to provide service support for the next three years.”
Habitat has so far purchased a total of 41 Aures Sango terminals in black for its stores, concessions and warehouses, with 10” touchscreens, wireless printers, cash drawers and scanners.
Pratt added: “The whole point of opting for Dynamics AX was so we could achieve better integration of our product supply chain with sales and marketing. We needed an EPOS solution which could fit into this, and that is just what the Sango terminals do.
“Now at point of sale our staff have full stock visibility, they can share details via a customer display screen to improve service, and it offers things like email capture so we are building up our marketing resources as well. Overall, it is very reliable and a big upgrade on what we had previously. Aures has provided a very responsive service. The team is always quick to respond, highly professional and have demonstrated genuine expertise to help us migrate quickly to a new system.”
The Aures Sango is a powerful EPOS terminal combining high-speed Intel processors and chipsets with a flat LED multi-touch monitor.
A combination of processing and display functions in one unit removes the need for separate computer units and screens, while the innovative space-saving design means cash drawers, printers and scanners can be conveniently stored underneath the display.