When you’re planning to refurbish your home, it pays to know which supplier will provide you with the products and services you require, at a price you can afford. Two major suppliers who supply products to refurbish your interiors are Laura Ashley and Designers Guild – but which is the one for you?
The only way to decide in the Laura Ashley v Designers Guild dilemma is to compare the strengths and weaknesses of the online shopping experience offered by both designer brands. Here are some points that may help you to make up your mind.
© Drobot Dean / Adobe Stock
Both online stores have an absolutely huge selection of products and styles and there really isn’t much to choose between them in terms of furnishing and accessory alternatives.
However, while Laura Ashley products are all the same brand, Designers Guild has a choice of many different designers such as Ralph Lauren, Christian Lacroix and Royal Collection. This may give them the edge for customers who aren’t a fan of Laura Ashley’s unique style.
Laura Ashley operates a useful colour swatches scheme to help customers choose the perfect option before purchase. Swatches are available for many items on the website including wallpapers, fabrics, upholstery, curtains and blinds. Customers simply click the “add free swatch” box while browsing – they can also compile a convenient swatch shortlist at the bottom of the page.
Designers Guild operates a similar system for wallpaper samples and fabric swatches. There’s a limit of 20 samples per customer order, with a maximum of four of each colour. Customers can also request a free paint colour card in matt emulsion, water-based eggshell and floor paints.
Laura Ashley offers free home delivery in the UK on orders over £50. Standard home furnishings delivery should take up to five working days, although this timescale isn’t guaranteed. The made-to-measure service makes deliveries by courier within two weeks using the Express service, or within four to six weeks for the regular service. There is also a ten-day Express sofa service in the UK. If there is a sale on, however, things can take much longer to be delivered.
The Designers Guild standard delivery option in the UK is free when customers spend more than £250 and it takes three to five business days – although you can usually expect to receive your order within two to three days. There is also express delivery that takes one to two business days, or weekend delivery – this option excludes rugs and paint. Furniture and mattress orders are made within eight to ten weeks and delivered within two to three weeks.
Laura Ashley’s returns policy on standard home furnishings and take-home products permits customers to return unopened, unused items, in their original packaging, within 28 days – for a full refund. The retailer doesn’t accept items back after 28 days, even with a receipt, unless they are faulty.
If customers are dissatisfied with their purchase for any reason, Designers Guild will provide a refund on all goods, as long as they are returned within 30 days in their original packaging, unused and in a resalable condition. Made-to-order items from the Designers Guild bedroom furniture collection can’t be returned, unless they’re faulty.
The Laura Ashley online store is easy to navigate, with large product tabs placed horizontally, near the top of the home screen. However, it’s just about impossible to find the FAQ page from the home page. This is a shame, because it could save shoppers time by simply being able to click on a clearly-visible tab.
The page showing the delivery options also isn’t very clear – for example, the average customer won’t immediately know the difference between “made to order” and “made to measure” products, so although they have different delivery options, the page doesn’t explain which products fall into each category.
From the homepage, once you have clicked on a specific category, it is impossible to click another using the menu in the header – you have to type in your chosen item/field in the search box. This problem has existed for some time, but Laura Ashley seems reluctant to make the necessary changes.
The home page of the Designers Guild website enables customers to choose from a number of search options including brand, category, room, type of furniture and clearance products. This is a useful feature, as customers planning on refurbishing a bedroom, for example, can click the relevant tab and find suggested bedroom products, including paint, all laid out together.
There is also a useful “track my order” tab on the home page, plus a FAQ tab which takes customers straight to a page of questions and answers on all topics relating to the supplier.
The product descriptions on the Laura Ashley website are very thorough, with plenty of large, detailed pictures. There are large colour photos of the fabrics when you’re choosing a custom-made item, such as a sofa or chair. There’s also a tab on each individual product detailing the product care, which is useful when making a selection. As with a lot of websites, the colours do not always translate well from the computer screen to the actual product.
The product descriptions on the Designers Guild site are slightly inferior and it’s more difficult to customise your order. For example, when choosing a sofa, there’s one large photo of the item, with a brief description.
When you click on the “leg finishes” tab, rather than detailing the particular finishes available for the model you’re viewing, a general tab pops up that shows every option. The descriptions are so tiny they are virtually illegible, even on a laptop, never mind a mobile device.
Laura Ashley has come in for a bit of criticism recently in online reviews, in terms of product quality. A quick internet search reveals a large number of one and two-star ratings in February and March 2018.
Criticisms have included the dye from a throw transferring on to a white leather sofa, bulk orders of wallpaper containing some with a serial number that didn’t match the rest, leaking paint tins, fraying on a mattress and a bookcase made of inferior-quality wood with missing screws, making assembly impossible.
Designers Guild, on the other hand, has received plenty of five-star reviews for the quality of its products, with customers praising “excellent” pillows, the “highest quality” designer linens, “fabulous” bed linen at a great price, a wide choice of colours for duvet covers that also wash well and “excellent” rugs. Search online and it’s difficult to find a negative Designers Guild review.
Unfortunately for Laura Ashley, the pattern of negative reviews for some products in 2018 has continued into customer service as well. Customers’ online opinions are far from complimentary, with comments that the customer service representatives have been unhelpful, creating a “very disappointing” overall experience.
Another customer complained of a 10-week wait for a sofa, only to find it had been cancelled without their knowledge. Other reviews claimed they had tried to contact Laura Ashley about items not arriving, but no-one had called them back, concluding there was no co-ordination in arranging deliveries.
On the other hand, Designers Guild again has the edge when it comes to customer service. Customers describe the company as “very efficient” and providing “excellent service”. According to reviewers, nothing is too much trouble for the staff.
Consumer reviews are so important to businesses. Looking at the pros and cons of Laura Ashley v Designers Guild, their services and products are not too dissimilar – yet the customer reviews suggest a massive gap in terms of the overall customer experience.
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