Other than IKEA, generally big-name household shops can be expensive, and the best place to buy such products are budget places like Wilkinsons, local small-town discount shops like Quality Save, and of course the pound shop.
Quality Save sells a mix of things from toys and games to food to househols products. You do have to look and shop around to get the best bargains. My best bargain from there is probably a clothes airer I bought. The exact same one is selling in Tesco and online for about £30-£40, whereas mine cost £7.99. It's also good quality and holds a lot of clothes - bonus!
Wilkinsons is also good for a range of things, especially things like toothpaste and snacks. They also do a good range of cookware but I think Asda's range may be cheaper. I did pick up a mini wok for £2 though. I also bought some paint for my bathroom at less than £5 - Wilkos' own brand, but it's holding up well. I also get my legendary magic erasers from here, no home should be without them!
IKEA is good to add the finishing touches to a room as it has a nice selection of lamps at good prices (under £10), that are reasonably hardwearing. Asda sells lamps around this price but they are uglier and of poorer quality. I also bought my sideboard and cabinet here - they do a lovely range of cheap furniture which is fairly good. It was also my lifesaver in finding a dining room table for under £100, rather than the £300-400 of most furniture shops.
Next - the home section is usually ok in its normal sized stores, but the bigger stores e.g. in Manchester usually have a great range and are like a home shop in themselves. For discounted prices try a clearance or outlet store (same with John Lewis, which is obviously very good for quality but not for prices!)
Argos can be cheap for some home stuff but not others, and it's annoying buying things when you can't see them first - especially heavy things which have to be sent back.
I have recently purchased items from both Argos & Index & wished to return both of them. I purchased a mobile phone from Argos but had problems getting it activated. After numerous attempts over the weekend I eventually got it activated but by this time was unhappy with the telephone. I returned it to Argos, within their 16 day returns period, but they would not accept it as a return even though I explained that I had problems with it. The member of staff was unhelpful so I asked to speak to the Manger. He simply told me that I should have brought the phone to them and they would have tried to activate it for me and that was all the help they were prepared to offer me. Exit one dissatisifed customer! On the other hand I had purchased a 4 man tent from Index. I erected the tent in the garden to check the size and the ease of erection and I was unhappy with the size of it. I returned the tent to Index, within their very generous 28 day period, and had no problems whatsoever. The member of staff did not even check if it had been used. She simply asked what the problem was - I told her that it was too small. She promply placed a return sticker on it, placed it behind the counter and gave me my refund. Exit one very satisfied customer who gives Index top marks for their returns service.
Not usually one for stopping for a toilet break whilst buying paint or garden shears, but my 2 yr old daughter is!! I found that HomeBase had fantastic toilet facilities including a baby changing mat in my local store. I asked one of the staff members if there was a public convenience on site, fully expecting a sort of grunting sound that resembled "sorry luv", instead my attention was engaged by the member of staff telling me not only where the toilets were, but also pointing out that I could get a trolley in the middle cubicle which was designed for wider loads, buggies, wheelchairs etc. I was able to wheel a trolley load of goods, including 1 yr old in the trolley seat and a handful of coats and hats, although I had to removed the curtain pole to clear the width of the doorway. In I walked with trolley and 2 year old by my side, only to see clean facilities WITH nice soft toilet paper. (none of this tracing paper variety that repels liquids or almost anything for that matter) We sorted ourselves out and then vacated the toilet section, heading for the tills. In contrast, I have to say that B&Q do not have customer toilets and when I happened to need a toilet for my daughter with a solid load pending, I was taken to the staff toilets that appeared to be underneath the building, after having been led through two security doors, a rabbit warren of corridoors and funny shaped rooms with silver foil tubes in the ceiling, one smoking room, canteen and into the toilet (singular)..yes, there was only one toilet and we were chaperoned the whole time. Need I say more. Quite a contrast in services - I know these stores aren't meant to be set up to cater for people wanting toilet breaks as most people tend to head for the item they need, spend a few minutes working out their requirements, pay and leave. What about pregnant ladies or children? Some customers like to browse, plan and match up items and may therefore need to spe
nd time in the shop that exceeds 30 miniutes. Whether it's a pot of beige grout or a gnome, when it comes to toilet breaks - HomeBase wins hands down!!