/ Money, Shopping

How to haggle on the high street

Hand holding coin

We all love a bargain, but it seems we just aren’t prepared to pull out the stops to get the best deal. So, learn the art of haggling and stop it from becoming a dying art. Your masterclass awaits you…

When was the last time you asked a question like ‘What kind of discount can you offer me?’ when you were out shopping?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone if this isn’t the way you usually go about paying for things. Research by Sainsbury’s Finance shows that only 39% of people buying a new car in the next six months say they will haggle ‘very hard’ or ‘hard’ – compared to 52% a year ago.

And these stats are generous when compared to our own research from last march – we found that only 27% had tried haggling on the high street.

Too British to bargain?

To me, these stats aren’t at all surprising. Haggling just isn’t something I consider when I head into a shop to buy something new, but in a foreign country or at a second-hand sale I’m like another person altogether. Then I’ll go in with rolled-up sleeves all ready to bargain… and I won’t back down unless I get a good deal.

So why is it that our haggling confidence drops on the high street? Over a third of people told us that they didn’t think the store would lower the price. Another 20% said they were too nervous, and 9% refrain because they don’t think it’s very British!

But it seems we’re missing out on a whole heap of discounts – more than four fifths of those who haggled were successful to some degree, with many getting the price they wanted or something extra thrown in.

Tips to get you haggling

So what’s the best way to approach high street haggling? It’s not actually as hard as it might seem if you follow some basic rules:

  • Choose your products – the latest must-haves will be more difficult to bargain down.
  • Do your homework – look for comparative prices in other stores and online. Then take evidence such as printouts to your target shop.
  • Go at a quiet time if you can – it’s harder to bargain on a busy Saturday morning.
  • Let them know you’re a serious buyer by showing interest and asking questions.
  • A good deal isn’t always about a discount – ask if they’ll chuck in something extra or arrange free delivery.
  • Be confident, but polite and friendly, not aggressive – don’t just walk up to the till and demand a discount.
  • Give local shops a chance – they may be grateful to try and match chain and online prices.
  • Be prepared to walk away.
  • And to complete your preparation, watch our video guides on how to bargain and insider tips from an ex-salesman.

Is this enough to make you have a go or is it just not the ‘done thing’?


Some good tips there, I’ll try some of them out if I’m feeling brave!

I like supporting local shops, but sometimes find their prices a bit higher so I end up buying elsewhere. Maybe you’re right Hannah, maybe they would be grateful to try and match other stores – or at least offer a little discount.

Wonder what would happen if you went to a giant Tesco on a jam-packed Saturday morning, huge queue, you have 50 items on the conveyor belt, you pack everything up, then when the bill is calculated and you get told what you have to pay, you get into haggling mode and start trying to haggle it all down! 🙂

Perhaps not a realistic proposition, but it does highlight something I would feel a bit uncomfortable with when haggling. While I would generally feel quite comfortable haggling “one-to-one”, if there are other customers present/within ear-shot, I don’t think I’d be brave enough – I would definitely feel more embarrassed!

How does everyone else feel?

Malcolm Murray says:
27 October 2010

I get the impression that sales people and even the Manager has little room to vary the offer on display in shops belonging to large chains, but smaller shops have more ability to negotiate, especially if their price is higher than elsewhere. However I have had success in having additional items added without additional charge at both large chains and small shops, much to the embarrassment of my wife.
One area where I am particularly successful is if I can find a fault with the item on sale. Just this week I purchased a box with a crack in the lid. I did not need the lid but did not tell them this. The assistant offered 10% off but I asked that she consult her Manager. The Manager offered 50% off which I accepted.

Charly says:
25 January 2011

I have never tried haggling down as I would be too embarrassed and I turn red, and am afraid that they then think I’m not serious. I wouldn’t mind trying on a Sales Item which is broken or discoloured. I will put on my brave shoes and just go for it I guess.
Also I have never even thought about asking for discount in a High Street Shop, I think you kind of assume that you can’t so why bother trying?
Hmm this gives me loads to think about why I actually don’t do it.

Love the article!

The only time I would question the price is if I was buying goods on behalf of a charity. I would also ask a local car dealer if they can match the price quoted by a dealer elsewhere, because I feel that I might get better after-sales service. The rest of the time I will compare prices and go for the cheapest unless there is a reason to do otherwise.

I don’t think that haggling has a place in civilised society. Others have to pay more or the seller loses out.