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Shopping at JPO still a good deal?

While there are bargains to be had, some shoppers still find the products expensive when compared to prices in outlet malls in Europe and the United States.
The Straits Times - November 23, 2012
By: Rohaizatul Azhar
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Shopping at JPO still a good deal?

He spends about RM500 (S$199) each time, usually on staples such as shirts and pants from designer labels such as ck Calvin Klein and Brooks Brothers.

“It’s cheaper than buying from Singapore stores,” he said when Urban met him on Sunday outside the Versace outlet store, where his wife was browsing. “I wear pants and shirts to work and I like that I don’t have to spend a bomb to get well-cut designer staples.”

The couple are among about four million shoppers who have visited the outlet mall in the past year, of which Singaporeans make up 30 per cent.

The first of its kind in South-east Asia, the mall offers past seasons’ merchandise from 70 brands at discounts of at least 25 per cent.

Depending on the brand and season, mark-downs for selected items can go up to 85 per cent.

For instance, ties from Ermenegildo Zegna’s fall/winter 2010 collection are going for RM300, down by about 50 per cent from the usual price of RM630. At the Versace outlet store, a dress from the label’s fall/winter 2010 collection is selling at almost half price at RM2,350.

When Urban first visited the 175,000 sq ft mall in Kulaijaya, Johor, last December, about 80 per cent of the stores were fully operational. By January, five more stores – Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren, Raoul, Tommy Hilfiger and Versace – had opened, completing the mall’s first phase.

The mall has also doubled its estimated tourist arrival target.

In a phone interview with Urban, Mr Jean Marie Pin Harry, general manager of Johor Premium Outlets, said: “When we first opened, we expected to welcome about two million visitors by our first anniversary. Now, we’ve had more than four million people coming to the mall.”

The mall is now preparing for the second phase of its expansion.

While he declined to reveal specific details, he let on that the company was in talks with a few European luxury labels to open stores at the mall as early as 2014.

In total, he revealed, shoppers and tourists could expect at least 60 new stores by 2016.

In a company report released in August, Malaysian gaming conglomerate Genting Group, which co-owns the mall, said it was also planning to build a theme park, along with several hotels, to attract more visitors to the area. Construction is slated to begin in late 2014.

The mall is also reaping the benefits of being close to Malaysia’s newest theme park, Legoland. Mr Pin Harry said that since Legoland’s official opening in September, the stores had seen a “significant increase” in sales.

The weekend Legoland opened, Burberry, Coach, Gap, Levi’s and Michael Kors reported a 30 per cent jump in sales compared with the previous weekend, he added.

While there are bargains to be had, some shoppers still find the products expensive when compared to prices in outlet malls in Europe and the United States.

Ms Siti Zakiah, 27, a Malaysian accountant based in Kuala Lumpur, has visited Woodbury Common in New York and Camarillo Premium Outlets in San Francisco, both of which are also under the Premium Outlets chain.

“Brands such as Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors are cheaper by at least 30 per cent in American outlet stores,” she said, when Urban met her at the Johor mall on Sunday.

“I wanted to buy a nice trench coat from Burberry but it costs about RM4,000 after a 40 per cent discount. That’s still very expensive to me.”

Mr Pin Harry, who was aware of the gripes about the prices, said the company would do its best to meet the expectations of every shopper.

While the mall might belong to the same chain as some American outlets, he pointed out that each market has different restrictions and demands.

To get better value for money, visitors can register online to join the mall’s VIP Shoppers Club, which offers daily deals and promotions. These include additional discounts of at least 10 per cent at selected stores. During school holidays or public holidays, stores will offer further mark-downs of 35 per cent on selected goods.

“Each brand operates its own outlet store and prices its goods according to its own needs. What we try to do is to ensure that each brand gives discounts of at least 25 per cent,” said Mr Pin Harry.

“That’s the minimum discount you enjoy during sale periods at the retail stores in Malaysia.”

But most brands would price their goods at least 40 per cent off retail prices, he said.

“There is no point if the savings are not significant. If the discount is too little, no one will go to their store.”

rohai@sph.com.sg

HOW TO GET THERE

The Johor Premium Outlets (JPO) is located in Kulaijaya, Johor, which is about a 40-minute drive from the Tuas Checkpoint.

BY CAR

From Singapore via Tuas Checkpoint: After you clear immigration, go on the Second Link Highway and take Exit 304. Drive for about 15 minutes before taking Exit 302A to the mall.

BY BUS

There are buses from Singapore which will take you to either JB Sentral or Tuas Checkpoint. From there, switch to either JPO1 (from JB Sentral) or JPO2 (from Tuas Checkpoint).

TOUR GROUPS

One-day outlet mall shopping tour by RegentStar Travel, departing daily.

Cost: $15 (Mon to Fri); $20 (Sat, Sun and school holidays); $25 (eve and public holidays). Call 6299-9009 or book online at Regentstar.travel/index.php.

One-day tour to Legoland and the outlet mall by CTC Travel, departing daily except Wednesdays.

Cost: From $69 per adult and $62 per child, inclusive of return coach transfers and entrance pass to Legoland. Call 6536-3345 or e-mail enquiry@ctc.com.sg to book.

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