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Spending so much time at home this year has inspired many of us to upgrade our interiors – and if you’re investing in new furniture and homeware, it’s worth buying from a retailer you can trust.
Which? has surveyed thousands of people who’ve recently bought items ranging from cushions and lamps to beds and sofas, so we can reveal the best and worst furniture and homeware retailers in the UK.
We’ve got star ratings for value for money, customer service, product quality, delivery and returns for all the major retailers. Read on to find out whether you should buy from big names like John Lewis and Amazon or smaller, specialist stores.
The best furniture and homeware shops and websites
John Lewis & Partners (JohnLewis.com) is the best place to buy furniture and homeware from, according to our survey of 12,419 Which? members and members of the public, conducted in August 2020.
In second place was Lakeland (Lakeland.co.uk) – and both retailers impressed us so much that we’ve named them Which? Recommended Providers (WRPs) for furniture and homeware.
Overall, cost (30%) and range (18%) were the two biggest factors in shoppers’ choices of furniture/homeware retailer. But interestingly, cost was significantly less important to those who shopped with our two WRPs. For John Lewis, habit/loyalty was the main factor, while Lakeland’s range was its biggest draw.
Why is John Lewis & Partners the best place to buy furniture from?
John Lewis may have attracted some negative press this year, closing stores, scrapping its staff bonus and planning to drop its famous ‘never knowingly undersold’ motto, but shoppers still voted it the best out of 47 furniture and homeware stores.
It scored five stars out of five for product quality, customer service, after sales service and returns, delivery and its warranties and guarantees.
The only factor that let John Lewis down slightly was the usefulness of user reviews on its website, for which respondents gave it three stars.
One customer who’d bought chairs and cushions from John Lewis said: ‘High quality products, knowledgeable and helpful and cheerful staff, good delivery, excellent returns policy. The ideal.’
- Find out more: the best time of year for John Lewis sales
Lakeland’s guarantee sets it apart
Renowned for its baking accessories and kitchen storage solutions, Lakeland came second in our survey. Shoppers gave it top marks on multiple fronts, including its product range, quality, staff and aftersales service.
Lakeland’s customers were impressed with how it communicated coronavirus-related changes to its usual shopping processes – and they loved the three-year guarantee offered on all items.
A customer who’d bought kitchenware said: ‘Lakeland sells excellent quality items and has a very good guarantee period. Customer service is also excellent.’
- Find out more: kitchen appliance reviews from Which?
Worst furniture and homeware shops and websites
The lowest scorer of all the retailers in our survey was Harveys, which went into administration in June and has now stopped trading.
One unhappy sofabed customer said: ‘They went into administration but their communication up to that point and after has been horrific. They have taken full payment but won’t give a refund and now the administrators say all orders will be fulfilled but I have no clue if/when that will happen as communication is non-existent.’
Dwell and Homebase fared only slightly better in the rankings, with both scoring poorly for product range, availability and quality of products.
One Dwell customer who had bought bedside cabinets said: ‘Didn’t receive the service I expected from Dwell, online store wouldn’t apply discount so ordered over phone, trouble getting a firm delivery date, goods arrived damaged although when I eventually got to speak to someone they did give me a discount.’
Returning furniture and homeware
Furniture and homeware need to look great but also stand up to the wear and tear of everyday use, so what happens after you’ve parted with your cash is just as important as the buying experience.
Overall, one in ten shoppers in our survey tried to return what they’d bought, and seven in ten (69%) of them were satisfied with the process.
John Lewis and Lakeland were the only retailers to get the maximum five stars for aftersales service and returns. Interestingly, they also had fewer shoppers than average trying to make a return – 5% at John Lewis and just 2% at Lakeland – possibly reflecting the retailers’ focus on product quality.
More shoppers than average tried to return items to the worst-rated retailers – three in ten (31%) at Dwell and one in five (22%) at Harveys.
- Find out more: your consumer rights for returns
Shopping for furniture and homeware during COVID-19
The way we shop is changing. Some 49% of UK adults shop more online than before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to our September 2020 poll of 2,010 members of the public.
The proportion of UK adults who shop on their local high street more than once a month fell from 51% before the pandemic to 38%. And 29% said that the guidelines about face coverings had made them less likely to shop in store. Unsurprisingly, 54% of shoppers told us they enjoy shopping less now than before.
This means that people are often trying out new retailers or buying online for the first time: 26% of those shopping with a furniture or homeware retailer for the first time said it was because of circumstances relating to COVID-19.
Fortunately, most were happy with their experiences. 93% of shoppers at John Lewis & Partners and 95% at Lakeland were positive about the way the retailers communicated any coronavirus-related changes to the normal shopping process. Even at bottom-placed Harveys this was 71%.
And, while most people in our survey (47%) ordered online and had the item delivered to their home, 82% of those who went into stores felt safe.