Good deals in JB even better with strong Singdollar

Ms Nur Hayaty Jaafar (in green top) and her husband Muhammad Faizal Sinwan, 36, shopping for Hari Raya snacks in a tent next to Plaza Angsana in Johor Baru last Thursday. With them are the couple's eight-month-old daughter Puteri Delaila Aryana and t
Ms Nur Hayaty Jaafar (in green top) and her husband Muhammad Faizal Sinwan, 36, shopping for Hari Raya snacks in a tent next to Plaza Angsana in Johor Baru last Thursday. With them are the couple's eight-month-old daughter Puteri Delaila Aryana and two-year-old son Ary Arjuna Putra, and the children's grandmother, Madam Rosminah Idris, 57 (in red headscarf). -- ST PHOTOS: RAJ NADARAJAN
(Above, from left) Madam Irene Yeo, Ms Serene Ang and Mrs Cassandra Lim buying groceries at Tesco in Johor Baru's KSL City last Thursday. Besides shopping, taking a trip to Johor Baru is like a gathering for the three friends. -- ST PHOTOS: RAJ NADAR
(Above, from left) Madam Irene Yeo, Ms Serene Ang and Mrs Cassandra Lim buying groceries at Tesco in Johor Baru's KSL City last Thursday. Besides shopping, taking a trip to Johor Baru is like a gathering for the three friends. -- ST PHOTOS: RAJ NADARAJAN

Masseuse Nur Hayaty Jaafar and her family of five were at Plaza Angsana in Johor Baru last Thursday, stocking up on goodies for Hari Raya Puasa.

The mother of two bought a tin of rempeyek, crackers made of deep-fried flour with peanuts and anchovies, for RM50 (S$19.50) and four bottles of assorted cookies and snacks, spending less than RM200.

She estimated that she saved 30 per cent by shopping across the Causeway. "We are buying most of our festive goods here because it's cheaper. There are also different varieties of food and clothes every year."

The 36-year- old and her family members have been shopping in Johor Baru about twice a month for close to a decade.

Many shoppers like her from Singapore, who head across the Causeway, are enjoying even more savings with the Singapore dollar hitting a 15-year-high against the Malaysian ringgit.

Regulars interviewed at KSL City Mall, Plaza Angsana and Aeon Bukit Indah Shopping Centre told The Sunday Times they can shave anything from a few cents to a few dollars off the prices of tidbits, soft drinks and even movie tickets.

They can now expect to save even more, with the exchange rate hitting RM2.55 to S$1 last Friday, the strongest the Singdollar has been against the ringgit since early 1998, just after the Asian financial crisis.

Most of these regulars who visit Johor Baru for their grocery shopping also found good deals at pharmacies and restaurants, while others were stocking up on Hari Raya cakes and cookies.

Warehouse storekeeper Micheal Samy, 52, who drives there with his wife once a week, said: "We usually spend RM200 but that includes everything like petrol and groceries.

"We also take our three children to watch movies. Each ticket only costs about RM10, compared to an average of S$10 for a ticket in Singapore on the weekends. We live in Clementi, but it's still very worth it to drive in."

For property agent Irene Yeo, an outing with her friends means a day trip to Johor Baru.

Madam Yeo, 42, and her friends, housewife Cassandra Lim, 37, and nurse Serene Ang, 36, go there at least once a month to shop. The trio take a bus from Woodlands across the Causeway.

When they visited Tesco supermarket at KSL City Mall last Thursday, they spent RM279.86 on groceries.

These included 15 packets of tidbits such as potato chips, two bottles of shampoo, clothes hangers, tea sachets, T-shirts, female sanitary items and dairy products including milk concentrate and milk.

Madam Yeo said: "I think we can save about S$20... Milk powder is much cheaper here."

She added: "When there are promotions in the supermarkets in Singapore, things are also quite cheap. But coming to JB is like a gathering for us, we can eat and see what they have here. Shopping malls in Singapore are all about the same."

Shopkeepers said they are expecting more customers from Singapore this weekend and the next.

Ms Chai Ming Jiek, 29, manager of Berlian Optical at KSL City Mall, said that Singaporeans make up about 40 per cent of her customers, and more are expected this week due to the low exchange rate and the Hari Raya Puasa cum National Day long weekend.

She added: "I think Singaporeans like it here because there is the bargaining culture, and we give discounts. But they have done their research, they know where to get things at a cheaper price."