As Asos recruits for its first foray into own-brand homeware, Drapers looks at why fashion retailers are expanding into interiors.
Scroll through Instagram and you are likely to see as many shots of picture-perfect homes as you are outfit snaps or carefully arranged brunches. In reaction to this, fashion retailers are looking to claim a slice of the interiors market by appealing to a trend-hungry millennial shopper who is not served by more traditional homeware brands.
This spring, Asos has been busy recruiting designers to create textiles, ceramics and hard goods as it readies its first own-brand homeware collection. This will sit alongside the etailer’s already expanded selection of homeware accessories, which now includes branded bedding, cushions and rugs. Primark, New Look and Zara all already have established homeware ranges.
Like fashion, interiors are a way to express personality and style
Camilla Henriksson, head of marketing and communication at H&M Home
Swedish giant H&M plans to open the first standalone stores for its interiors concept, H&M Home, in as yet unnamed European cities later this year, as well as expanding its product range to include furniture and lighting. The range launched in 2009 and is known for its keenly priced Scandinavian style. Prices range from £1 for candles to £149.99 for a jacquard rug.
“Like fashion, interiors are a way to express personality and style,” Camilla Henriksson, head of marketing and communication at H&M Home, tells Drapers. “We believe that the interiors industry will continue to grow and we see lots of potential around the H&M Home offer. Customers are looking for inspiration, modern design and a diversity of styles.”
Fashion retailers are focusing on home as they diversify into different categories to capture customer spend. High street names such as Asos, New Look and Primark have already launched own-brand make-up ranges over the past 12 months in an effort to tap into the lucrative cosmetics market. Like beauty, a strong home collection allows retailers to strengthen their brand identity in the fight to become a one-stop lifestyle shop for customers.
“Generation Rent” – the growing proportion of young people for whom the first step on the property ladder is increasingly out of reach – is also shaking up the homeware market and offering new opportunities for fashion retailers. Only 40% of Londoners will own their own home by 2025, reports PwC, compared with 60% in 2000.
Our target demographic are socialising more at home, and are much more conscious of their space
Emma Wisden, European managing director, Urban Outfitters
More unstable living conditions make Generation Rent less likely to splurge on traditional big-ticket furniture. However, the rise of aspirational interiors cropping up on social media feeds has driven this demographic’s interest in creating a covetable home that reflects their personality.
Lifestyle retailer Oliver Bonas is known for its quirky, design-led home collection, which spans everything from candles and glassware to tables, sofas and armchairs.
“If you look at social media and the influence of Instagram, there is an increasing focus and interest [from shoppers] in talking about the space they live in,” argues head of marketing Gina Coladangelo. “Even if you’re living in a shared house, you still want it to be lovely, and as a result we’re seeing younger shoppers thinking about homeware earlier.”
Fashion retailers are well placed to respond to this new, homeware-fashion-conscious consumer, who are hunting for frequently updated ranges at an affordable price point. The high street is able to leverage its knowledge of trends to bring fashion-forward products to market quickly, argues Emily Gordon-Smith, head of fashion at consultancy Stylus.
Candles, cushions and vases do really well in times when money is tight
Emily Gordon-Smith, head of fashion at consultancy Stylus
“Fashion retailers will benefit from the ability to think about and respond to trends in a far more fashion-focused way, and translate trends from one category into another. Homeware brands tend to have much more of a house style, rather than tapping into different influences in the way fashion brands do.”
Smaller, more affordable items such as cushions, candles and rugs, are a particular opportunity for fashion retailers, she adds: “Small homeware items are being purchased in the same way that a fashion accessory would. Candles, cushions and vases do really well in times when money is tight.
“We’re also living in smaller spaces, which has meant little luxury touches go a long way when larger items have to be kept to necessity.”
Tapping into the power of influencers and the younger generation’s interest in on-trend interiors has helped make homeware a fast-growing category for French Connection, which launched its first home collection in 2012. Bestsellers include the Poppy Field rug (£125). Revenue at French Connection Home grew by 7.6% year on year in the 12 months to 31 January 2018.
Generation Rent is keen to purchase standout rugs, chairs and lighting to personalise their rental space
French Connection representative
“We’re in a time when people are unable to move to a new house easily and so to make up for this, the customer is refreshing their interiors more regularly. We have a high number of customers in urban areas, lots of whom are likely to be part of Generation Rent. This younger customer is keen to purchase standout rugs, chairs and lighting to personalise and define their rental space,” explains a representative from the retailer’s home team.
Fellow lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters’ diverse home collection is designed to appeal to a range of customers, from those kitting out their university bedroom with tongue-in-cheek accessories to those who prefer a grown-up, minimalist look.
Homeware has been a key area of focus for European managing director Emma Wisden, who has concentrated on product development and strengthening homeware ranges: “Our target demographic are socialising more at home and, consequently, they are much more aware and conscious of their space.
“Customers connect with our brand and the fact we are a youthful department store. It is very much about creating a curated edit for our customer. Just as you work out who a particular person is when you create an outfit for them, so it is with their homes. Exclusivity is also important. What our shoppers can get with us is very different from what they can find elsewhere.”
Prices range from £6 for trinket dishes to £499 for a large rug.
Nevertheless, Wisden adds that building a homeware range is not without its challenges: “Apart from the fact that plants die, there can be logistical challenges. We can’t sell big pieces of furniture in store, so there needs to be that omnichannel connection. Our design team has to consider different countries’ compliance restrictions, even down to things like plugs.”
Gordon-Smith concludes: “Creating a more rounded lifestyle offering, as opposed to a purely fashion-centric one, is a smart strategy in an age where homeware is being designed to be just as ‘Insta-worthy’ as clothing