Most shoppers take impact of Malaysia's GST in their stride

Two women shopping in a supermarket at Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur,  on April 1, 2015. Malaysia joined the ranks of 160 other countries globally in embracing the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Under the new GST, consumers will be charged a fl
Two women shopping in a supermarket at Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur,  on April 1, 2015. Malaysia joined the ranks of 160 other countries globally in embracing the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Under the new GST, consumers will be charged a flat rate of 6 per cent, replacing the sales and services tax that ranged from 5 per cent to 10 per cent. -- PHOTO: EPA

Two major supermarkets in Johor Baru were noticeably less crowded yesterday, when Malaysia's 6 per cent goods and services tax (GST) kicked in.

The Straits Times had seen a lot more shoppers at the same supermarkets just the day before.

The prices of most products at the supermarkets, including shampoo, toilet rolls and cosmetics, have risen. But some items popular with Singaporean shoppers, such as milk powder, cooking oil and baby diapers, still cost the same.

At the Aeon supermarket in Bukit Indah, a pack of 10 rolls of Kleenex ultra soft toilet paper costs RM19.50 (S$7.20), up from RM17.90 the day before. The price of a 2.4kg pack of Enfagrow A+ Step 3 Original milk formula remains unchanged at RM159.99 at the same supermarket.

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Staff were seen restocking the shelves and putting up new tags indicating the prices inclusive of GST yesterday afternoon.

Unlike the day before, when shoppers were busily filling their trolleys with bottles of ketchup and packs of diapers, the mood was more relaxed yesterday.

"To be honest, I don't really care much," said a 60-year-old Malaysian manager who gave his name only as Mr Weng. His shopping basket was empty as he scanned the new price tags.

"Prices of imported products were already going up before the GST kicked in because the ringgit has depreciated a lot," he said. "A crate of apples already cost RM8 to RM9 more."

Some, however, were confused by the prices as certain items were part of an in-store promotion and cheaper than what their tags indicated.

Several shoppers were seen scanning their items on machines which showed the updated prices.

Singaporean housewife Lilian Choong, 60, who stocked up on noodles, bread and instant oatmeal at Aeon, said: "I know the prices of daily essentials are supposed to be unchanged. But even if they increase, the items are still cheaper than in Singapore."

At Tesco supermarket, also in Bukit Indah, updated price tags were in place when The Straits Times visited before noon.

Receipts showed the total price before GST and the tax amount.

"The prices I've seen so far are quite reasonable," said Ms Siti Khatijah, 25, a Malaysian customer service engineer who was buying a packet of milk.

But she is "worried that some retailers will take advantage of people who don't understand the GST and simply increase prices".

mellinjm@sph.com.sg