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GARDEN FURNITURE IN THE UK

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Even cheap garden furniture costs several pounds, the more expensive types cost several thousand pounds. So it pays to thinks a bit about where to buy your furniture and what it's made of before venturing out to the shops.

If you are buying a couple of plastic chairs at a fiver each then fine, but if you are thinking of paying £50 or more then the keywords are forward planning.

The best time to buy garden furniture is clearly when it is at its cheapest but exactly when is that time? To a degree it depends where you are buying your garden furniture. In our experience the best time to buy garden furniture at a garden centre or high street store / supermarket is between end August to end of October. The summer season is coming to an end so discounts become common and some of them can be considerable.

 

Garden centre furniture

Leave it any later than the end of October and the garden centres and other shops are beginning to display their Christmas goodies and the garden furniture goes into storage for next year.

If you are buying online then the season for bargains extends from late August to mid February. The online suppliers though are in direct competition with the garden centres, supermarkets and diy stores so they will tend to reduce prices more in the crucial end August to end October time frame.

Don't forget as well, that the price you see in a garden centre (and their online sites) is not necessarily the price you need to pay. Bargaining at garden centres is a definite possibility but even without talking to the salesman it is possible to reduce the price by as much as 10% before you even set out to buy. The method is simple, research the discounts the majority of garden centres offer using their rewards cards.

We have compiled a list of the major garden centre reward cards currently on offer to give you an easy comparison of the benefits available. Click here now for that easy comparison page of reward cards and discounts.

TYPES OF GARDEN FURNITURE


When selecting outdoor furniture one key factor is the material they are made from. Some look better than others, some can be left outside all winter and others are lightweight. Decide which is important to you and then select the best one for you from the list below.

PLASTIC
These are most often the cheapest type of furniture and they can be left outside all year long. Beware though of high winds if you do leave them outside, they are sufficiently light weight for a strong wind to blow them about. Some of the cheaper types may discolour or mark over time and they feel relatively flimsy.

Probably the least attractive looking of the lot but some manufacturers make them look solid and substantial. In many cases the chairs can be used without a cushion making them a very cheap outdoor furniture option.

RESIN
In its purest form resin comes from the sap of trees but garden furniture is made from synthetic resin. In appearance and feel it looks more solid compared to plastic and is less flimsy though still being relatively light. Basically its up-market plastic.

SOFTWOOD
Softwood has the look of solid wood at a cheaper price compared to hardwood. It is cheaper compared to hardwood because it grows much quicker and is therefore more available. The drawback is that it has a shorter life especially if not cared for correctly. This type of garden furniture should be stored in dry conditions throughout the winter and treated with preservative every year or so. One benefit it has over hardwood furniture is that the trees used for softwood grow much quicker compared to hardwood and are therefore a "greener" material.

The longevity of softwood furniture can be judged by the guarantee which some manufacturers offer on their goods. Alexander Rose, a respected name in garden furniture, offer a three year guarantee on its pine (softwood) furniture whereas they offer a ten year guarantee on its hardwood furniture. However, if you are willing to paint your softwood furniture with wood preservative each year it will give many, many years of good service.

HARDWOOD
One of the most expensive materials for garden furniture but it is very durable and can be left out in winter (without danger of winds blowing it away). To extend the life of hardwood an occasional painting with wood preservative will extend its life into decades. These are considered by some to be the most attractive garden furniture. Common hardwoods used for garden furniture construction are teak (probably the king of hardwoods),iroko and roble although many others are frequently used.

ALUMINIUM
The longest lasting furniture, very light and can be left out in the winter. This all comes with a price tag however and this is one of the more expensive garden furniture materials. Opinions differ on how it looks but its durability and lightness alone makes for very desirable garden furniture.

CANE AND WOVEN
These are very attractive looking and they have a cottage feel and appearance. Recent production improvements have produced woven seats and tables which last much longer compared to softwood furniture. They are comfortable even without cushions and not as expensive as other products with similar durability. Look for for a five year plus guarantee with this type of furniture and you will have a purchase to be proud of.

STEEL AND IRON
The longevity of steel or iron construction depends on the quality of the materials used and the finish. For maximum life they should be stored in dry conditions during the winter. They are heavy, solid and do not stack, without cushions they are uncomfortable. The advantage is that some people find their antique looks very attractive.

WHICH GARDEN FURNITURE MANUFACTURER


There are so many different manufacturers available in the UK that it is impossible to name them all. However, if you are spending a significant amount of money and want to be as sure as you can that the quality is high then a few manufacturers stand out as having stood the test of time.

Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association logo

Before listing selected manufacturers (see below) there is one more general method to determine if the quality of garden furniture is up to scratch. The Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association is the key body for manufacturers of outdoor furniture and they list on their site who their members are.
Being a member of LOFA is not a guarantee of quality but it is a good indicator and many companies display their logo as a comfort factor.

ALEXANDER ROSE
One of the best known names in garden furniture, Alexander Rose have been in business for 20 years. They guarantee their goods for either three or ten years depending on the materials used. The majority of their garden furniture is manufactured in Ghana and their website contains very clear statement about the ethics which back up their production process and the materials used.

Use this link if you wish to request one of their brochures. We checked the prices out for a couple of their chairs in June across a variety of retailers including E-bay, Amazon, Gardensite and others. All included free delivery and the prices differed very little. It would appear that if you want a bargain from Alexander Rose then you need to wait until autumn.

HARTMAN
This company has been trading for over 40 years, they are based in the Netherlands with their UK business operating from Telford in Shropshire. Compared to Alexander Rose above their guarantee is for a much shorter period of time, from one to two years. Their hardwood (teak) furniture is guaranteed for only two years.

Hartman do not give out glossy brochures, their site recommends instead that you download their pdf version from the website. We could not find this. If you are looking for bargains then our investigations showed that there were significant differences in prices between retailers for Hartman garden furniture. We found differences of up to 20% in June and these may increase as winter approaches.

BARLOW TYRIE
Barlow Tyrie has been trading for over 90 years. Their guarantee lasts between two to ten years depending on the range, teak furniture is guaranteed for ten years. Price wise it looks like all the retailers are charging within a pound or two for the same model. Barlow Tyrie have clearly tied down pricing differences very tightly. The only place you will get a bargain is by going to their own clearance site.

BRIDGMAN
Bridgman have been manufacturing furniture from 1955 onwards and began to manufacture and sell garden furniture in 1983. You can request a catalogue from them by clicking here.

They manufacture their furniture using many construction methods although they are probably best know for their hardwood range. This is another company which controls the prices which retailers charge very well.

NORFOLK LEISURE
Norfolk leisure began trading in 1982 and over the last 30+ years have developed into a major supplier of garden furniture in the UK. Production of their products occurs mainly in the Far East.

They guarantee their wooden furniture for one year which indicates that their goods are in the budget to mid market area.  There are significant differences in prices for these products on the internet and in garden centres. Investigation before buying is well worth the effort. Expect price reductions in autumn onwards.

LAFUMA
As far as garden furniture goes Lafuma stick to chairs in different sizes and for different uses. They can be left outside all year if wanted. Their guarantee is for two years. The company began life in 1930 although it was in 1953 that they began to manufacture garden and camping chairs.

Price differences do exist although not for all products.

BELLAGIO
This is a company which produces stylish garden furniture. Not widely available in the UK. Price differences between different retailers are very large so research before buying is essential.

KETTLER
A highly regarded Germany based company which has been operating in the UK for over 30 years. They have stockists all round the UK but also have a unique range sold at John Lewis thus avoiding price competition on those particular products in the range.

The materials used are almost exclusively metal and weave, we could find no examples of timber products. We could find only small differences in prices between different retailers.

WHICH RETAILER FOR GARDEN FURNITURE


The major choice is between the garden centres / diy shops compared to online sellers. The key factors to consider are price, guarantee, delivery cost, delivery time and overall reliability of the supplier.

GARDEN CENTRES
Many of the garden centres in the UK which sell garden furniture in the retail units also sell them online. In many cases delivery is free but check that out just to be sure.

The largest garden centre chain by far is Wyevale Garden Centres and even a cursory study of their website shows that they do not indicate who is the manufacturer of their furniture. Indeed, many of the items are exclusive to Wyevale Garden Centres making price comparison against the same model impossible. In essence, if you are buying from this chain of garden centres you are relying on their good name and not that of the manufacturer. Some find this fine, others may want to know who made their garden furniture.
Dobbies, another large chain of garden centres is much the same.

Notcutts garden centres online shop also don't mention the manufacturer but an image search in your favourite search engine will often find an image of the product for sale on the manufacturers site. Typically, less large chains of garden centres and independents will often name the manufacturer.

If you have decided to buy garden furniture (or anything for that matter) from a garden centre then you would be wise to investigate the discount and rewards cards they have before making a purchase. For example, Notcutts have a reward card which offers 10% almost all items in their stores, garden furniture included, every day of the week for a cost of only £10. So, if you are buying £500 worth of furniture from them the £10 card will save you £50! An even better offer is available from the Garden Store garden centres - turn up to buy your furniture on a Tuesday or Thursday with their FREE reward card and you will be given a 10% discount.

For a comparison chart showing the reward card offerings from all the major garden centres, click here, it could save you more than enough for a decent meal for two.

For online sales only some of the best known names and links to their sites are listed below:
Furniture Village
Greenfingers
Supreme Rattan Furniture
Simply Garden Furniture
The above are just few of the online suppliers, Tesco, Homebase, E-bay, Amazon and others are worth a try in your search for garden furniture bargains.