GARDEN furniture prices have soared by as much as 155 per cent during the pandemic new research has revealed.

It has led to fresh speculation that Brexit is contributing to a major rise in shipping costs which is underpinning the rises.

The consumer investigation reveals that major retailers are now charging consumers thousands of pounds more for some popular outdoor items.

The consumer organisation Which? says consumers have not just been facing facing furniture price increases but also problems with items being out of stock, and delivery delays of multiple months since the first lockdown.

Analysis of more than 2,000 garden furniture items has revealed huge price hikes.

A survey of prices was carried out across garden furniture products such as sheds, tables and chairs from six popular DIY, furniture and garden stores between July 1, 2019 and 30 June 2021.

For some products, prices have risen by more than double, significantly bumping up the cost for people who wanted to spruce up their gardens for outdoor socialising.

Sheds have seen the biggest price increases in terms of pounds and pence.

The Shire 12x24ft Mammoth Loglap Timber Shed in blue began the period at £2,799.99 from Screwfix before ending up at £5,395.99 two years later. That is a £2,596 increase (93%) For five of the retailers, the biggest rise came between the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021.

The price of a Forest Garden Overlap Pressure Treated Shed, also sold by Screwfix, rose by a staggering 155 per cent over the period. It started at £319.99 in July 2019, but by July 2021 it was priced at £814.99.

A shed sold by Homebase also nearly doubled in price - the Mercia shed/greenhouse combi was £695 in 2019, but £1,210 two years later.

In terms of tables and chairs, the Denia Wooden 6-Seater Dining Set, available from B&Q, was priced at £247 in July 2019, but by July 2021 it cost £369 – a 49 per cent increase.

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Another price rise was on the Forest Garden Lyon Arbour from Screwfix and Toolstation. In July 2020 it was priced at £179.99 at Toolstation, but by the end of the period it cost £261.98.

The arbour was almost always more expensive at Screwfix. Priced at £219.99 for most of the period, it saw incremental price rises and ended up at £341.99 by July.

Every retailer Which? looked at raised garden furniture prices between the second half of 2020 and the first half of 2021.

Wickes saw the largest average increase, with outdoor goods costing 13 per cent more this year than they did in 2020. Screwfix and Toolstation also saw rises of over 10 per cent across their garden products. The other retailers checked were Homebase (8%), B&Q (7%) and Amazon (2%).

It comes as the industry has blamed rising shipping costs for furniture shortages.

Discussions are underway between the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and international maritime bodies over the increasing costs of international shipping.

This comes after the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) sent a letter to the CMA asking it to initiate a formal investigation into the operation of the international shipping and sea freight container hire market.

The CMA said it is aware of concerns of collusion and price fixing, an allegation it is “taking seriously”.

It is now undertaking discussions with international competition, market and maritime authorities to explore what other states are experiencing and any investigations/actions they might be taking.

The Recycling Association that a "bad cocktail" including driver shortages, increased paperwork and costs from Brexit and a lack of available workers had meant costs have risen by around a third this year.

All six retailers involved in the study were asked why there had been such stark price rises over the course of the pandemic, particularly in 2021 so far.

B&Q and Homebase both mentioned increased shipping costs as a contributing factor.

A lack of raw materials was also a sticking point for several retailers, with Toolstation highlighting how the “well-publicised timber shortage due to unprecedented demand from the US” resulted in price increases.

Wickes pointed to “availability constraints and inflationary pressures”, B&Q mentioned supply chain price inflation and Homebase referenced a shortage of supplies. All three retailers said they were working with suppliers to minimise price increases.

Amazon pointed out that some of its prices are set by third-party retailers, and that it has policies to help them price products competitively.

It said its own prices fluctuate regularly for many reasons including stock levels and competitors changing prices.

Ele Clark, Which Retail Editor, said: “Many people have looked to spruce up their gardens with new outdoor furniture during the pandemic, but our analysis shows consumers have been hit with eye-watering price hikes for popular items.

“Anyone looking to buy garden furniture should consider shopping around for the best prices, exploring the second-hand market, or repairing what they already have if that’s an option.

“It’s also wise to plan ahead with any furniture purchasing at the moment. Large or custom items could take several weeks longer than usual to arrive, so think about what you might need later in the year and order it now, if you can.”

Wickes said: “There are many factors which may have contributed to price changes over the past three years.

"In 2019, there was more promotional activity in the market. More recently, availability constraints and inflationary pressures across some raw materials, including timber, have been well-flagged, but we have strong supplier relationships and are working closely with them to ensure we continue to provide customers with the products they need at the best possible value. With the specific example you have provided, Wickes’ prices are in line with the rest of the market.”