Shopping: Check it Out; Mail Order Sofas and Beds

FED UP with traipsing round stores looking for an end-of-sale bargain? You could have been wasting your time as you can buy a sofa or bed through mail order catalogues for considerably less than the "full price" store items. And their year-round sales mean you don't have to make an impulse buy you may later regret.

Small ads are full of sofas and wrought iron beds for around the pounds 300 mark (expect to pay at least double in the high street), but can you trust the quality?

Sofa Workshop Direct is the mail order arm of its bespoke, high street stable mate, Sofa Workshop. The former advertises sofas for just over pounds 300, the latter sells custom-made models from pounds 699. The mail order sofa is cheaper, as it is only available in a limited range of fabrics and styles, the cushion interiors are standard, and it's guaranteed for three instead of 10 years for the custom-made version. What you see in the brochure is what you get, factory born and bred.

You also have the advantage of a 21-day money back guarantee if you change your mind after delivery, as long as the furniture is returned in mint condition. "We do have some returns, but it's generally because the sofa is too big for the room, or the colour didn't match the decor," says Sofa Workshop Direct managing director, Euan Kelway-Bamber.

The company is aware that its showroom, alongside its factory in Wales, has helped customers make their final decision. "People like the fabric samples they are sent in the post, but something holds them back. There's a general misapprehension that anything mail order is cheap and nasty, but they're always pleasantly surprised at the quality they are getting for the price."

Low overheads and limited choice give the mail order manufacturer the edge on price. As does furniture that can be paid for on delivery, instead of weeks in advance.

There's nothing like a good sales pitch to get customers rushing to place their order. Special deals from "cancelled orders" seem to run and run.

Cannock Direct is currently having a "factory clearance" of double wrought- iron beds in a choice of three styles for pounds 245 each, including delivery. But how can you gauge the quality of a mail order bed? Fabric samples are easy to view by post, but assessing an iron bed is a bit more difficult.

The Handcrafted Bed Company sends customers metal samples in any one of the 12 finishes they produce. Marketing director Jacqueline Hughes says a well-designed brochure increases sales. "Mail order is becoming more acceptable, but you can't expect to sell stock from scrappy line drawings." A recent client survey showed that 40 per cent of their customers are professionals with a high disposable income and limited time for shopping.

Seductive magazine-style directories devoted to interiors are a far cry from the big-book catalogues full of underwear and nylon bedspreads. Most firms also have 24-hour order lines and websites to make the customer's life even easier. Some people just haven't got the time to struggle round the shops any more.

The high street stores know that they cannot be left behind. Many now offer a mail order facility: convenient it may be, but it's not necessarily for the bargain hunter.

Fiona Brandhorst

Sofa Workshop Direct (01443 238 699 *), www.sofaworkshopdirect.co.uk; Cannock Direct (01543 462 500 *), www.cannock.gate.uk.com; Handcrafted Bed Company (0115 965 6575 *)

Suggested Topics
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Year 5 Teacher

    £80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

    Software Developer

    £35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

    Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

    £35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

    Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album