Bargain shoppers: we test two online discount homeware sites - Achica.com and Made.com

With claims of up to 70 per cent off, homeware shopping sites look too good to be true. We test two of the biggest - Achica.com and Made.com.

How we shop is constantly evolving. Cut-price supermarkets, long popular in Europe, are gaining ground in Britain, while online discount homeware sites are increasingly popular with their claims of 70 per cent savings compared with high street shops.
 
This is particularly good news for Londoners, who typically spend 20 per cent more on homewares than the average Briton. We looked at two fast-growing online retailers, Achica.com and Made.com to discover how they work and what they offer.

ACHICA.COM - MEMBERS’ BENEFITS
Achica was launched in 2010 by Will Cooper, former chief executive of Nasdaq-listed Tradedoubler, a firm that helps businesses grow. Achica has enjoyed double-digit growth year on year since it started.
 
A “luxury lifestyle” online store for members, Achica focuses on discounted homeware and outdoor living items, most of which are available at the same time on the high street. Anyone can browse the site but only registered members can buy.
 
Achica claims to have signed up four million UK shoppers. Membership is free, and registration was easy when we tried it. Discounts of “up to 70 per cent” are on offer and the website is stylish and simple to navigate (www.achica.com).

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Achica: the site offers a luxury lifestyle

 
How it works
Achica holds daily sales of mainly branded goods, including from names such as Samsonite, Brabantia, Dyson and Sanderson, all at discounts, typically of about 40 per cent.
 
Three quarters or more of the products are from current lines also being sold in the high street. Achica can negotiate discounts because of the scale of its orders and because it restricts sales to members who have to wait around two weeks for delivery.
 
Sales usually last three days, with more than 2,000 items offered each day and when they are gone, they are gone. You can look up a diary of what will be coming up for sale. Achica also has its own Premier Basics line of items that are always available to buy, currently offering mainly furniture and bed linen.
 
Delivering the goods
Delivery dates are shown at the time of ordering, usually within two weeks. For big-ticket items, such as sofas, delivery can vary from one to six weeks.

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£549, usually £650: Gaggia coffee machine from Achica (www.achica.com) — the discount firm’s sales last for just three days, so “once it’s gone, it’s gone”. Register or sign in to view all sales items 

 
What do customers spend?
About 10 per cent of Achica members shop regularly with the site, spending an average £60-plus. The average saving is about 35 per cent, but some lines really do have 70 per cent off.
 
Are they real discounts?
Yes, and as Achica sells mainly branded items there are plenty of comparison and store websites to check prices before you buy.
 
MADE.COM - NO MIDDLEMAN
Made.com was set up in 2010 by Brent Hoberman — co-founder of lastminute.com — and entrepreneur Ning Li. It sells designer homewares direct to the customer from the maker, so there are no warehouses or shops involved, which cuts out most retail overheads. The site offers savings of up to 70 per cent compared with the high street prices of comparable items.
 
The website is ultra-smooth and informative, showing you each item for sale and giving lots of detail about the designer, fabric and construction — even including some videos of designers talking about their work (www.made.com).

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Made.com: the site is “brands-free”

 
How it works
Made.com places a manufacturing order every seven days, so items are made in bulk, then dispatched directly to the buyer. Because pieces are made to order and some are shipped from the other side of the world, they can take weeks or even months to arrive. Made.com insists that since it doesn’t discount branded goods, it is not a discount retailer.
 
It operates from two London showrooms where you can see some of the furniture and fabric samples. One showroom is in Notting Hill and there’s a new one in Shoreditch.
 
So, what’s in it for me?
Made looks at three high street items that are comparable to the one it is offering for sale, then takes the median price as its “high street price”. You can then compare the price of Made’s product with that.

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£149: Made.com’s Vittorio ottoman in teal (www.made.com)

What do customers spend?
Made has 110,000 customers across the UK and Italy. The company declined to reveal an average spend per customer, but its turnover last year was £26.2 million, a 68 per cent increase on 2012.
 
Are they real savings?
Since items are comparable to brands but made by other manufacturers, you must make up your own mind about savings. The large amount of technical info about the items should help you.


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