Two hours of homework paid off for the husband-and-wife team of Ms Wang Hui Hui and Mr Lim Kim Guan, who won The Straits Times-GSS Fantasy Shopping challenge last Friday.
Three pairs of participants were each given $5,000 to spend within 30 minutes and had to chalk up the highest percentage of discount savings to win.
Mr Lim and Ms Wang, both 47, came out on top after chalking up more than $7,209 in savings, or 59.28 per cent off the total price of their basket of goods, which was worth $12,161.80 in total. The pair spent 22 minutes on the challenge and went home happy, having won every item in their haul.
The win, they say, was a mix of luck and legwork. Ms Wang, who is an IT pharmacist, says they spent an hour after work on Wednesday and Thursday before the competition on Friday morning to scope out the Harvey Norman Northpoint City store, taking note of some of the items on sale.
"We went around the store and looked out for the big cardboard signs that detailed discounts, as we felt those would be items that would be discounted the most heavily," she says. "As we just moved into a new house in Bishan last year, we're excited to be able to use some of these new items in our home." The couple have two children.
This is the second year that The Straits Times-GSS Fantasy Shopping challenge, which is organised by the newspaper, was done in partnership with electronics, IT, bedding and furniture retail chain Harvey Norman.
This year, the competition was held at its newly renovated 90,000 sq ft Northpoint City superstore. Last year, it was held at the store's factory outlet at Viva Business Park.
While they did their research, Mr Lim, a service engineer, says their win involved luck as well. "We saw that the other couples picked similar items and, overall, the competition was close. Plus, we made some last-minute changes which were not part of our initial plan, so I guess we were lucky."
When the challenge started at 10.30am, the three pairs strode quickly into the store and started selecting items immediately.
However, despite the tight timeline, no one ran and participants managed to stay calm throughout the competition.
Ms Wang and her husband picked items such as a sofa, a television console table, a 49-inch television, a hairdryer and two children's bed frames. 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 decision to get two bed frames instead of just one that helped them clinch the win, they said.
"Initially, I didn't want to get two bed frames and we did have an argument about that," says Ms Wang.
"But as my husband is a master strategist, I went with his decision as the bed frames were what gave us the biggest discounts."
The nine items that the couple won will be put to good use, even though much of their house is already furnished.
Mr Lim says: "We'll definitely be using some of the new items in our home and sharing our win with our extended family as well."
Mr Kenneth Aruldoss, managing director of Harvey Norman Singapore and Malaysia, says the challenge shows just how much savings customers can get for their new homes, especially given Harvey Norman's new Home ABC packages, which include an air-conditioner, a washing machine, a water heater, a range hood, a hob, a LED television, a sound bar, a fridge and a mattress and queen-sized storage bed frame for a starting price of $7,499.
Packages can also be customised to suit different budgets.
"This partnership proves how Harvey Norman is a one-stop shop for everything you need for your home and shows that you can get a whole lot of products for a lot less money," he says.
"Imagine, if for $7,499 you can get everything you need to sort out your home, then there is no need to go anywhere else."
Mr Amrendra Tiwari, 38, and his wife, Ms Priyanka Tiwari, 34, who both work in a bank, came in second with savings of 57.33 per cent. Marketing manager Ms Hoo Jing Wen, 28, and Mr Lee Khai Yew, 28, who works in compliance, were third with savings of 57.16 per cent.
Both runner-up teams received Harvey Norman shopping vouchers worth $200.
Ms Hoo and Mr Lee, who are slated to get their keys to their built-to-order flat in Tampines at the end of the year, say they enjoyed the challenge.
"We went for the big-ticket items we would have needed in the new house. Overall, it was still a fun experience," said Ms Hoo, who added that they will probably use their vouchers to get a new vacuum cleaner.
Mr Tiwari says he and his wife read about the challenge in The Straits Times and decided to sign up as they are moving into a new home at Haig Court next month.
The duo, who took their one-year-old son with them for the competition, said the whole thing was exciting and nerve-racking given the 30-minute shopping window.
"We chose things that we would have needed for the new house, but even though we lost by just two percentage points, we still had fun," says Mr Tiwari.
"We might use our consolation prize to buy a new dishwasher."