High street haggling really does pay

Recession-hit retailers need customers, but a Which? survey finds a third of us are still too afraid to negotiate a deal

If you don't ask, you don't get. Yet despite the potential to save hundreds of pounds by haggling, one in three people are too embarrassed to even suggest to shop staff that they want a discount.

Bartering over price before doing a deal is no longer reserved for souks or street markets on holiday. Brits feeling the pinch are talking big-name chains, as well as independent stores, into tearing up their price tags. From televisions and computers, to baby clothes, gardening tools and make-up, it seems retailers desperate for sales are increasingly willing to do business.

Almost half of people (43 per cent) have tried to haggle in the past year, according to a new survey from the consumer group Which?, with three-quarters securing a discount. And despite major retailers officially stating that they will not match prices found online, many are willing to reduce prices once a potential customer is in their shop. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of people armed with a price from an internet outlet managed to persuade a shop to match it, saving, on average, £52.

Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: "Haggling for a bargain doesn't have to be confined to the markets of Marrakesh, as we've found better deals can be negotiated on the high street, too. There's nothing to lose in asking for a lower price, especially at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch."

More than a third of people surveyed (37 per cent) are too embarrassed to haggle, while 38 per cent do not bother trying because they do not think it will work.

Researchers from Which? were sent to 27 shops, including 22 independents, to buy a Canon EOS 1100D camera with a 18-55mm lens kit, which was then priced on Amazon at £350. Among the independents, every shop offered a discount once they were shown the Amazon price, the lowest deal being £369. The large retailers drove a harder bargain, and insisted they could not match online deals, but some were willing to negotiate if the camera was bought that day.

When trying to get shops to match online prices, shoppers saved £66.20, on average, on TVs and hi-fis, £73.47 on large electrical home appliances such as fridges and washing machines, and £52.47 on computers and IT accessories.

The suggestion that the best deals may not always be found online will be a welcome boost for the high street, which continues to be battered by grim trading results and waves of store closures. The latest figures from the Local Data Company show a rise in the national shop vacancy rate in the first quarter of this year to its highest level, at 14.6 per cent. But, while the big chains cut their store numbers by 0.25 per cent in 2011, the number of independent retailers grew by 2.4 per cent – and it is these businesses that are more willing to negotiate with customers.

Top tips for paying less

Be prepared

Let staff know you are a serious buyer by asking sensible questions.

Be realistic

You won't get a £500 TV for £50, no matter how good your haggling.

Go armed

Don't just say you've seen it cheaper elsewhere; take proof, including printouts from the internet.

Timing is everything

Trying to do a deal on a busy Saturday morning is hopeless. Wait until the shop is quiet, and staff are desperate for a sale.


Getting a good deal isn't just about discounts; it might mean having some extras thrown in or delivery charges waived.

Be polite

Punching the counter (or cashier) and demanding a discount will prove counterproductive.

Think local

The owner of an independent store doesn't have to answer to head office, so might be more willing to cut prices.

Have some dignity

Bartering is one thing, but do not beg. Walk away.

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<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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