Home Renovation: Should You Buy From Mega Retailers or Small Shops?

Alevin Chan

Alevin Chan

Last updated 12 June, 2017

Mega-retailers like IKEA, Harvey Norman, and Courts have flexible payment options, but neighbourhood shops offer the best bargains.

Whether it's to spruce up a tired apartment or create the home of your dreams, you’ll likely carry out a home renovation project or two in your lifetime.

For cost-conscious Singaporeans, going the DIY route can bring down the price of your renovations. While you’ll still need a contractor or interior designer to manage the major works, sourcing your own furnishings, fittings and appliances could help you save a tidy sum.

If this is the case, you might wonder if neighbourhood furniture and appliance shops can provide better bargains than big chain retailers like IKEA, Harvey Norman, or Courts. Here’s what you need to know about sourcing your home improvement needs from chain retailers and independent shops.

Chain Retailers Can Fulfill Your Orders In A Hurry

First, the caveat: this only applies if you’re not picky.

Say you have a spare room to rent out, and by a stroke of luck, an eligible tenant has approached you with the intention to take over the room. But she needs to be able to move in within the next few days, which means you need to get a bed and some basic furnishings in a hurry.

It’s a toss-up between your room and another landlord’s - it all depends on who is able to get the room ready on time.

If you don’t want to lose the tenant and endure weeks without rental income, chain retailers are your best bet. Big chain stores like Courts and Harvey Norman have a warehouse where they keep ready stock. So if you’re in a hurry, you can go to them and request to shop from their warehouse.

By sticking to what’s available (beggars can’t be choosers anyway), you can quickly get yourself the furniture you need at one go, without having to run back and forth between shops.

Neighbourhood Shops May Provide Faster Installation

Once paid for, furniture and appliances need to be delivered and properly installed. One of the more challenging aspects of doing your renovations is coordinating everything so that they all get delivered and set up in the right sequence.

For example, if your brand new air con goes up before you repaint your walls, you risk unsightly streaks and splotches from errant paint brushes. Plus, there will always be an ugly patch of old paint sitting behind your indoor unit - which you can never truly forget, because you know it’s there.

Mega retailers often outsource the delivery and installation of your appliances to a third-party logistics provider. This can cause unnecessary delays, especially during peak seasons such as Lunar New Year or Hari Raya.

Aircon installation services in particular are notorious for this. Just think about how enjoyable your newly renovated home will be without working air conditioning.

Independent stores, on the other hand, often handle the delivery and installation themselves. Unless they happen to be particularly popular and have a huge backlog of orders to clear, you should be able to get faster turnaround times.

Depending on what’s being delayed, this can make the difference between a pleasant move, and a sweaty, frustrating transition.

You May Get Lower Prices From Neighbourhood Shops

We’re gonna tell you an open secret: your neighbourhood shops are holding on to the best prices.

Manufacturers have to pay a premium to mega retailers in order to list their products for sale in their shops. (Just like how foodstuff manufacturers pay supermarkets to have their stock put on their shelves.)

As a result, the prices you see in big-box retailers aren’t necessarily the lowest price you can get, despite how many exclamation marks they put on that garish brochure that is always lying in wait in your letterbox.

If you want cheaper prices, go stalk your neighbourhood shops and get to know the proprietors. You’ll be surprised at how much money you can save buying your appliances and fittings from them.

Small HDB shops can often give you better prices because they do not charge suppliers store space (which, as you can imagine, jacks up the retail price).

Also, manufacturers may hold promotional sales programmes for their independent store partners, allowing them to offer special packages that you may not find in big-box stores.

This translates to savings you might not otherwise get.

Chain Retailers Allow Credit Card Instalment Plans

Chain retailers offer one undeniable advantage over neighbourhood stores: you can pay for your new furniture using your credit card instalment plan.

If you are looking to do minor renovations costing just a couple of thousands, or if you failed to secure a home renovation loan, using your credit card instalment plan would be your best option.

Doing so would allow you to buy the appliances and fixtures you need, and spread out the payments in a way that won’t kill your cash flow. Also, unlike a renovation loan, there aren’t any interest charges to pay.

On the other hand, if you buy from a neighbourhood store, you will likely not be able to use your credit cards. Smaller stores require you to deal in cash terms, probably because they don't want to pay for card merchant fees.

If you don’t have the cash on hand, you may have to give up the bargains you may find at standalone shops.

However, using your credit card instalment plan will allow you to get your renovations done, even though you may have to pay higher prices.

Save On Your Renovations With The Right Credit Card

Sadly, a credit card instalment plan won’t allow you to earn points, cashback or miles. However, you can still use credit cards to save money.

Once you’ve taken care of the major items, you probably have some smaller purchases left on your shopping list. Paying attention to which credit card you swipe for these can help you stretch your dollars.

hsbc-advance-cardHSBC Advance Credit Card

One good card to use is the HSBC Advance Credit Card, which gives you up to 3.5% cashback and S$125 maximum cash rebate. Pay your bills with this card to earn as much cashback as you can, and use the rebates earned to buy smaller household appliances. Bam! Free iron, toaster oven, and shaver.

citi-premiermilesHSBC Advance Credit Card

Another way to benefit is to earn air miles on these purchases. Try the Citi PremierMiles Visa Card, which gives you 1.2 miles per S$1 spent locally.

This card also comes with the best welcome offer out there: it gives you up to 42,000 bonus miles as a welcome gift! Plus SingSaver.com.sg is also giving away an exclusive NTUC FairPrice voucher worth S$100 to all successful applicants - very nice for stocking your shiny new fridge.

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Alevin ChanBy Alevin Chan

A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.

An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.


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