/ Shopping

The never-ending sale: the never-ending joke?

Colourful sale signs

A Which? investigation tracking furniture sale prices reveals what most of us have long suspected – that sales never stop. Have you seen items on sale for longer than they should be?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the term ‘sale’ imply that the price is a special offer for a limited time only? But furniture companies appear to think the ‘sale’ is the norm.

We tracked online prices on 300 sofas and beds for seven months and found some infuriating results, although I’m not sure you’ll be surprised.

A seven month ‘sale’

Some products we tracked were on ‘sale’ for seven months! Bensons for Beds and Sleepmasters were culprits, but others aren’t off the hook for potentially misleading people into thinking they’re making huge savings.

One trend was to put the items on a non-sale price for around three to four weeks, but then drop them back to a sale for anywhere up to 20! Yes, that means you Furniture Village, SCS, Dreams and Harveys.

There are government guidelines for how shops should promote prices, but they have shortcomings. For example, shops shouldn’t really have something on ‘sale’ for longer than it was at the non-sale price – but bizarrely they’re allowed to do this if they tell you about it.

So, if a shop wants to up the price of a sofa to its non-sale price for just two weeks, but keep it on ‘sale’ the rest of the time, they can. On one Harvey’s sofa there was a notice on their website saying they were doing exactly that.

Fair enough, they’re open about the fact that they want the sofa virtually permanently on ‘sale’, but can anyone take a product seriously when it’s on ‘sale’ for 30 out of 32 weeks?

The truth about ‘extra discounts’

And here’s a question for you: when is an ‘extra discount’ not an ‘extra discount’? When the price is exactly the same as the ‘sale’ price before it.

One Bensons for Bed double divan had a ‘sale price’ of £399. So imagine my confusion when, the week after Christmas, the same bed had an ‘extra discount’ price of… £399.

Lesson learnt. I won’t buy a sofa from one of these chains at full price as I’ll probably be doing myself out of a few hundred quid. If you see something you like and it’s at ‘full price’, ask when the next sale is.

Don’t feel pressured into buying one of these big ticket items just because the word ‘sale’ is emblazoned across the price tag. Chances are it’ll be there for a long time.

Comments
Guest
stewart mason says:
25 July 2010

You’ve missed the biggest culprit of all time – DFS furniture
They have a permanent sale every day of the year
If they try to con people about a sale it makes you wonder if their furniture is really worth what you pay for it, even at so called sale prices
I would never, on principle, buy anything from them
It is impossible for the man in the street to know the quality of either furniture or beds that they buy
I could tell you a long story about Benson Beds
I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got my money back with the help of trading standards

Guest

Yeah u r right about DFS furniture they always perpetrate on sale and direct bargains, i think either they sell low quality cheap chinese furniture or they just add more profit margin and put them on sale. DFS furniture is definitely trying to con people with the slogan SALE!!

Guest

I’ve seen the same sofas at up to 50% off at Furniture Village for over 2 years and they appear in their sale brochure at the same price. FV occasionally send me a "special customer" discount of 10 or 20% . Do their marketing department really think people are this gullible to believe in fictional "sale" prices repeatedly featured in adverts and leaflets?

Guest

Never, ever (I repeat, EVER!) pay full price for a piece of furniture at a store!!

Sales are NOT sales at furniture stores. If you want a true sale price then turn up during a Furniture Village store DURING one of its ‘sales’, then demand a 10% discount (be prepared to walk if they say no). I’ll (almost) guarantee you’ll get what you’re asking for (otherwise I’d eat my hat if I had one!).

Guest
allan says:
1 November 2016

I went one better….saw a sofa I wanted at dfs..£499 in a sale….did not need it straight away as was in middle of DIY and it would just get in the way…Went back two weeks later £995…( yeah right )….so…got £500 in cash…went in…then this pushy strop of a guy came over to serve me…I said I will have this please, its what im looking for…certainly sir…will be £995…
No….it was £499 two weeks back….that was in the sale then…its now full price.
So I said….I have £500 cash here in an envelope…im going to walk slowly to the door. If you stop me and say ok deal…fine. Even keep £1.00 tip…but if I get outside, I will go else where…even if you say yes…
Guess what….I got to the door and was called back….The sales guy said he managed to arrange it as a special discount….he says it took a lot of persuading ( course it did ) but I got the sofa for £500….
I would encourage every body do the same…..it will work.

Guest
Dave Swansea says:
26 July 2010

It would be great if Which carried out the same exercise in Carpetright.
I saw a man-made wilton on sale for £13.99 sq mtr normally £49.99 sq mtr.
Who are they kidding.
The public need to wake up and boycott these chains and start supporting
your local trader.

Guest
floorman says:
6 October 2010

i own three carpet shops and have worked for cr for 8 years i know all their scams dont buy there support your local indepentdent shop dont get ripped off

Guest
Tony says:
26 July 2010

It’s a pity, but more legislation does seem necessary in this field + warnings about pressure to buy liquids that will clean or protect your leather furniture – or sale of associated insurance. Hey look, I just want this chair! OK? And, does anyone negotiate prices???

Guest

I have noticed with many of these big shed stores that one sale just rolls into another and different items of furniture go in and out of discount over time making it virtually impossible for purchasers to judge the fair selling price of the item. Only by comparing similar products in a range of stores can you get any idea of whether the current offer is a typical price, a good deal, a bargain, or a clearance offer. The picture is further complicated by the "manager’s deal of the week", customer loyalty discounts, "blue cross sale", "extra XX% discount", "sale extended for a further week" and special promotions. I am never sure how their compound discount percentages work – if there is a reduction of 50% and then a further 20% does that mean the final price is 30% or 40% of the starting point? Most big-ticket furniture in these stores [except mattresses and some bed sets] is not branded so it is also impossible to make accurate comparisons with other retailers whether high street or on-line. The products themselves are difficult to compare properly because there is no way of checking or testing the construction quality and durability of materials, and a higher price does not necessarily equate to a superior product, possibly just a more fashionable design. The marketing focuses on appearance rather than suitability. Maybe all this would not be such an important issue if we were talking about low cost purchases but the spend level is often in the thousands of pounds and the expected life-cycle of the furniture is measured in decades not months. I find it difficult to see how these shops can hope to build consumer trust but they don’t seem to care. This is a racket rather than a rip-off so I am not sure whether legislation is the answer; perhaps a code of practice which requires stores to display a pricing history for each item showing the start and end dates of each price change level might draw customers’ attention to the issue but the stores would probably restyle or rename the bed/sofa/suite to get round the rule leaving the customer no further forward. There is apparently no answer to the problem of purchasers being "caught" between discounts – this can happen with any purchase – but it would be good if there was a rule that a price drop between ordering and delivery must be applied to the sale contract. It is a good idea to always make payments with a credit card as these out-of-town stores seem to have an unfortunate habit of folding leaving purchasers with the problem of getting their money back. We have bought a number of items from Furniture Village and been satisfied with the products, prices and service.

Guest

A few years ago I tried out a Stressless chair at Wallace King. It was on ‘special offer’ at £799 or thereabouts, the real price I was told was nearer £1200. Well I have never seen this chair advertised at anything other that £799 or thereabouts, give or take a pound. Not just by WK but by Stressless themselves. The chairs are so comfortable they could sell themselves. Furniture Village sell their producs always on sale. All the ligislation just needs tightening up.

Guest
Alba Robinson says:
29 July 2010

One other "sale" thing that never ceases to amaze me is the one where the adverts say "Buy now, pay next year/in 2 years or whatever". I, for one, cannot imagine who would want to buy a sofa and pay for it when it’s about 3 years old! If it wasn’t a very good one, I would definitely consider changing it and definitely NOT starting to pay for it. Maybe I’m just missing something?!

Guest
Mike Sercombe says:
28 December 2014

I agree. Baron Kirkham (DFS) came up with the idea and of course included the credit charges in the cost. It has been so successful that you can no longer buy a sofa in UK that does not include the cost of “interest free credit”. A store cannot give you a discount for cash as that would contravene the “no interest” terms. So thanks to the billionaire Baron (not Baron Hardup!) we are all paying whether we like it or not.

Guest

The Public already know of these scam artistes

But what we don’t know is why the advertising code has never been rammed down their throat until they choke and desist in this dishonest advertising.

I went into Bensons to help my daughter buy a bed; the one she looked at was made up, when I checked, the bed frame was not appalling quality, but they placed an expensive mattress on it; but not the nasty one in the advertised deal.

as they were both sold together – I complained to the manager.
"Normal practice" she claimed. I told her exactly where I was going and I would not come back.

Dreams have had £2000 pounds worth of business.

Guest

These ‘sale’ practices are scandalous. I was delighted to see in the August ‘Which?’ article that you are passing your findings to the OFT. Unfortunately, if, as you say, the current Government guidelines have shortcomings then what is really needed is for the OFT to tighten up the rules. I hope ‘Which?’ will keep up the pressure on this.

Guest
dave glinka says:
3 August 2010

This practice of furniture and carpet retailers is no different than the plethora of half price offers from supermarkets. As a example who decides that the full price of a punnet of strawberriesis £3.98 so they can claim they are half price at £1.99. When in Germany the strawberries in the local shop were 85 cents including 19% VAT while in Britain they were £1.99 on the same day. (half price)

Guest
Roy Ticehurst says:
28 August 2010

Add Homecare and B & Q to the list. Shopping for a fitted kitchen or bathroom is a nightmare. You have to arrange an appointment with their representative who does a good job with the software to show you how your kitchen or bathroom would look but then suffer while they work out the price. They show you the non-discounted one first which is astronomical! They then subtract discounts for this and for that and end up with a figure which you can only get if you order by Saturday when the promotion ends. You are then under etreme pressure to make a quick decision. Comparing with other suppliers is extremely difficult due to this practice of having permanent promotions that seem to vary from day to day.

Guest
Doreen Mtutu says:
13 September 2010

Hallo There
I am a customer already and I would like to know if the dates of my Direct Debits can be shifted to the first of every month. The one for DFS goes on the 22nd of each month and it stresses me so much the other one for Benson Beds goes out on the 24th I would appreciate very much if the dates are moved.

Thank you

Doreen Mtutu

Guest

Hello Doreen, I’m afraid you’ll have to talk with your bank, DFS and Benson Beds directly to sort this out. Thanks.

Guest
Watda Fook says:
17 March 2017

[Sorry, your comment has been removed for being rude/offensive, which breaches our Community Guidelines. https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/ Thanks, mods.]

Guest
Annie says:
4 February 2011

Many years ago, worked for a furniture chain (now closed). They had 2 beds – one with red mattress, one with blue, exactly same spec. For 8 weeks one would be full price, while other was set at a reduced price. Every 8 weeks the prices would be swapped over, so ‘true’ price of the item was the lower price, but some people bought on the colour of the mattress and so paid the higher price.Not sure if this still happens, but why do we think it is a bargain purely because the price has been reduced? Many retailers bring in items at a high price to price establish, before putting item ‘on offer’.

Guest

I bought a bed and two side tables in one of the ‘never ending sales’ (with a little extra discount due a ‘Vectis’ card) from Bensons for Beds in early September 2011, which were delivered two weeks later. One item was damaged and the never ending wait continues for it’s replacement – We’re almost 5 months down the line and a promise of it being delivered within 2 weeks a month ago, has made the whole experience, one long frustrating nightmare, whilst I wait to complete my refurbished room! Sale or not, I won’t be spending there again….

Guest
Sharon says:
25 February 2013

I purchased a carpet from carpet-right in one of their half price plus extra 20% off sales. We paid 12.99 per metre squared. It was easy to remember which carpet it was, as it was the exact carpet they had on the floor of the shop and the same colour. Over the months, even years that followed, when we went into the store we would find the carpet and see what price is was. This carpet changes is price on a regular basis. Even the pre sale price changed. We once went in to find it said it was reduced from £35.99 to £15.99, this was rubbish, as it was apparently reduced from £24.99 when we bought it. It has never been priced more than 16.99. So it’s anyone’s guess as to the true quality of the carpet!

Guest
Angela Ridgway says:
24 May 2014

Am about to go and see the manager at harveys. Purchased a sofa on 26/4, 11 weeks for delivery. This weekend it is on sale for half the price we paid. We have since found out that it originally came into the store Easter 2014 and was immediatly put on at £799. It was only at so called full price for 4weeks.Also protection we purchased has more exclusions , than it does inclusions.

Guest
Mike Sercombe says:
28 December 2014

I must mention Baron Kirkham, knighted for his services to selling sofas and making him a billionaire. Correct me if I am wrong but he came up with the “Pay nothing until next year/then continue to pay us when the sofa is buggered”. This was such a success that you can no longer buy a sofa in Britain today that has not got an already built-in credit interest cost. If you want to pay cash and suggest a discount they cannot oblige as they would be contravening the “no interest charges”. I guess you could write a book about the sofa rip-off industry and yet the TV ads still herd us in through the doors like lambs to the slaughter.

Guest

EuroCarParts are also doing this never ending sale.. its been ongoing for about 2 1/2 years + so far.

They do something along the lines of,

Christmas Sale
New Year Sale
Mothers Day Sale
Easter Sale
Valentines Sale
Fathers Day Sale
Autumn Sale
Winter Sale
Spring Sale
Summer Sale
Bank Holiday Sale
Halloween Sale

Its become beyond a joke.

Guest

First off – Happy New Year.

We are now off to buy a two seater sofa on New Year’s Day! Here’s the plan. We have a budget – we don’t want to spend more that our budget (£800 inc delivery – and with free scotchguarding). We are going to put the sales staff under pressure (what I really mean is for them to let me purchase something at the price I want to buy it at). We can pay cash (noted comments above), we can haggle and we can say no (also realising that they can say no too!).

Well fellow Whicharians – let the battle commence!

Guest
Richard says:
12 May 2016

Are there any rules regarding so called “double discount” sales? For example,instead of putting an £800 item on sale for £399, it is first “reduced” to £599, then “reduced” again to £399. It’s ridiculous.

Guest
Carole says:
18 February 2017

What are the rules if you buy furniture in a sale. In addition, Get free (discounted) insurance and half price delivery. Then sofa is reduced by further £100. Not yet taken delivery of furniture. Asked for further £10 to be honoured, but told that as we have managers discretion all free insurance allowance we won’t also get the further reduction on sofa. Is this right?