Putting in the legwork paid off for husband-and-wife team Lim Yan Lian and Winnie Ho when they took part in The Straits Times-GSS Fantasy Shopping challenge on Tuesday.
Three teams of two were each given $2,000 to spend within 30 minutes and they had to chalk up the highest percentage of discount savings to win.
Mr Lim, 32, and Ms Ho, 30, came out on top after getting more than $9,800 worth of savings, or 83.25 per cent off the total basket of goods, in just 20 minutes. As the winners, they took home all the 13 items they picked out.
But their win was no fluke. Mr Lim, a relationship manager at a bank, puts it down to proper planning. "We came down on Sunday to take note of the items that we wanted to get. We did our homework, so I guess it paid off."
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The second The Straits Times- GSS Fantasy Shopping challenge was organised by the newspaper in partnership with electronics, IT, bedding and furniture retail chain Harvey Norman, and was held at its new factory outlet on Tuesday. The first challenge was held last month at department store Metro The Centrepoint.
The 38,500 sq ft outlet store opened this month at Viva Business Park in Chai Chee Road.
While they did their research, Ms Ho, an accountant, says a little luck was involved too. "We saw that the other couples picked similar items. So I guess we were also lucky."
When the challenge started at 11am, the three teams walked purposefully into the store and started selecting items immediately. Ms Ho says the atmosphere was relaxed and no one was "kan cheong" (anxious in Cantonese).
She and her husband chose items such as two single-seater arm chairs, a cordless phone and a memory pillow, with a total retail value of $11,848.60.
On their strategy, Mr Lim says they got a mix of items they wanted as well as things that would give them the best discounts.
It was their choice of a queen- sized mattress and bed frame that helped them emerge victors.
They chalked up savings of $5,233 from the two items alone - a combined percentage savings of 83 per cent.
The items that the couple, who do not have children, get to take home will be put to good use.
Mr Lim says: "We got our Build-To-Order HDB flat about 11/2 years ago, but we are still in the midst of furnishing some of the rooms. So we wanted things for the house, such as a breadmaker and a bed for the guest bedroom."
In fact, when asked how they are celebrating their win, Ms Ho says: "We're going home to make bread."
Finance specialist Kenneth Lee, 25, and his girlfriend, Ms Liew Xin Wei, a 22-year-old business student at Nanyang Technological University, came in second with savings of 73.75 per cent.
Married couple Abdullah Abu Othman, 56, an assistant engineer, and housewife Sharifah Sapiah, 48, were third with savings of 45.26 per cent.
Both runner-up teams received $200 worth of Harvey Norman shopping vouchers.
Ms Liew says she and Mr Lee also made a recce trip to the store over the weekend and that they had signed up for the challenge on the spur of the moment because she was looking for something fun to do during the Great Singapore Sale period.
"It is a pity that we lost. But we still had lots of fun," she says.
Mr Abdullah and Madam Sharifah, who have four children and who visited the store for the first time on Tuesday, say they also enjoyed the challenge.
"We wanted to experience a shopping spree and we got to do that. It was fun."
Mr Kenneth Aruldoss, managing director of Harvey Norman Singapore and Malaysia, says the challenge shows just how much savings - discounts of up to 90 per cent throughout the year - one can get at the new factory outlet, which stocks items such as discontinued furniture, refurbished electronics, display sets and current models at one-off special prices.
"Imagine, for $2,000, you can get so many items, why would you shop anywhere else?" he says.