Discounts just waiting for people to ask: Recession forces shops to haggle more often

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The Independent Online
SHOPPERS who are prepared to overcome their embarrassment and ask for discounts can save 15 per cent or more, according to a new guide.

Recession and increased competition mean that shops are more prepared to bargain than ever.

The techniques of successful bargain hunters include knowing when to buy - September is a good time for electrical goods, December for new cars - and exploiting the potential for extras and added value such as free extended warranties.

A knowledge of company profit margins is also an advantage, car dealers have around 20 per cent margins to play with, for example. A researcher using the guide was able to get a 10 per cent discount on a pounds 550 compact disc system, plus an extended guarantee and three free CDs. For a car costing almost pounds 16,000, a dealer eventually offered 11 per cent discount plus a free alarm system and a year's road tax.

The manager of one electrical shop had a printed list of authorised discounts - pounds 40 off, or 8 per cent discount, for cash, and up to 17.5 per cent off if a customer spent more than pounds 1,000. Another manager confided that bargaining worked best towards the end of the week, when sales figures are totted up.

An NOP poll of 1,000 consumers found that bargaining was now considered more acceptable, although four out of 10 would still be embarrassed by haggling in a crowded restaurant or shop.

Discounts had been obtained at Next, Curry's and Dixons, although not at Marks & Spencer. The poll found that men were more prepared to bargain than women.

The guide, published by the TSB bank, says many shops are now prepared to sell goods 'at whatever price is necessary to move them'.

A dealer's profit margin on a used car can range from pounds 1,000 to pounds 3,000. The guide says that buyers should ignore the August new-registration rush, buy from mid-September to January, and - as a 'rough rule' - begin by asking for 20-25 per cent off. For electrical goods, Christmas should be avoided.

Bargain-hunters should shop with a friend or partner; one person can seem less keen. They should give the impression they are shopping around - by carrying leaflets, for example. Ready cash 'works wonders' and superficial flaws on products should be worth a discount.

Increase Your Bargaining Power; available at TSB branches.