Furniture sales exposed in Which? probeSofa and bed 'sales' lasted for seven months

25 July 2010

Furniture sales

Furniture 'discounts' and 'sales' that continue for months on end have been exposed by Which? research that tracked thousands of prices for seven months.

After analysing 12,793 online prices for 330 sofas and beds, Which? believes that offers on products at seven of the eight major stores we tracked - Bensons for Beds, DFS, Dreams, Furniture Village, Harveys. SCS and Sleepmasters - could mislead customers.

Find out which shops are the best for buying your homewares and furniture according to the Which? survey of the high street, where we polled 14,000 people. are also rated in our survey of more than 10,000 Which? members

Sale, or normal price?

The range of tactics in the furniture ‘sales’ arena is vast, covering everything from never-ending promotions during the seven months we tracked products to what appeared to be a fake ‘extra discount’. Bensons for Beds’ Fiji deluxe bed was on sale for seven months, during which time it was never sold at either £599.99 or £699.99 - the quoted higher prices. 

Similarly, Sleepmasters’ Opulence double divan was on sale for either £989.96 or £1,099.95 over the same period of time, but never for the higher price of £2,199.95.

Which? research found that some sale periods that, while not seven months long, extended over extraordinary periods of time. Harveys' Caprice sofa was on sale for 30 of 32 weeks, and Harveys' website stated that the non-sale price had applied for just two weeks in December 2009.

Bensons for Beds' extra discount

In one instance, Which? discovered that an extra discount price appeared to be no such thing. The ‘extra discount’ offered on the Ashleigh divan from Bensons for Beds was £399, despite this also being the original 'sale' price. Bensons used this 'extra discount' for 11 weeks period after Christmas before the same price simply became a 'sale' again.

Which? believes chains are using loopholes in the current government guidelines on pricing procedures to mislead consumers, and is calling for a tightening of the rules so that consumers are not potentially misled by what we consider to be discounts that may not actually exist. The eighth chain we tracked online - The Bed Shed - seemed to buck the trend, with sales typically lasting for four weeks out of the 32 across the products we looked at.

Shopping for a bed? If so, take a look at our review of mattresses to find the best fit for you.

Be sceptical of furniture sales

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith says: ‘Our rigorous research shows shoppers should view discounts and sales on furniture with a healthy dose of cynicism. Until or unless the government tightens up the guidelines on sales promotions, we’ll continue to run the risk of shoppers being led up the garden path by what Which? believes to be misleading “sales” and “discounts”.

‘If you’re in the market for a bed or a sofa, never pay the full price without checking if a “sale” might be coming up – the chances are you won’t have to wait more than a few weeks to benefit from a hefty price cut.’

Which? is passing its findings to the Office of Fair Trading to further investigate 'the never-ending sale' and ensure that companies are transparent about prices.

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