JOHOR BARU: Many Singaporeans endured the traffic jam and large crowds on Sunday (Nov 19) to visit IKEA’s newly opened outlet in Johor Baru.
IKEA Tebrau, which opened its doors last Thursday, is the Swedish company’s largest outlet in Southeast Asia.
Although it is located just 16km from Woodlands Checkpoint, some Singaporeans who drove across the Causeway faced congestion lasting up to two hours on Sunday morning.
The traffic jam at Woodlands Causeway was exacerbated by the first school holiday weekend for Singaporeans.
“It’s not usually this bad,” said Mdm Fatimah Amin, who left her home at Tampines at 9am and reached IKEA Tebrau at noon.
“I wanted to check out the new IKEA store, and perhaps buy some kitchenware. Jam or no jam I think you can’t deny that the prices here are much cheaper than the stores in Singapore,” added the 48-year-old school teacher.
Mdm Fatimah purchased a Behagfull 24-piece kitchen cutlery set at RM139 (S$45). The same set costs S$55 at IKEA Singapore outlets.
Many other Singaporeans Channel NewsAsia spoke to on Sunday shared similar sentiments as Mdm Fatimah.
Engineer Mr Richard Hu said the currency difference made it “inevitable” that the goods at IKEA Tebrau would be cheaper than its Singapore outlets at Tampines and Alexandra.
“You can’t deny the currency difference. Everything is cheaper, and if you buy in bulk, the amount you save adds up,” he added.
Channel NewsAsia compared the prices of several products on the catalogues of IKEA Singapore and IKEA Tebrau, and found that the goods sold at IKEA Tebrau were largely cheaper.
The IKEA Malm bed, for example, is priced at RM969 (S$317) at the Tebrau outlet, compared with S$549 at the Singapore branches.
Meanwhile, the Klasen barbeque set – comprising a charcoal barbeque pit and trolley – is priced at RM1,435 (S$469) at IKEA Tebrau, more than S$90 cheaper than IKEA Singapore.
A three-seat Landskrona sofa set, meanwhile, costs RM5,095 (S$1,660) at IKEA Tebrau, compared with S$2,019 at IKEA Tampines.
PARKING WOES, PACKED RESTAURANT
The potential savings IKEA’s Tebrau outlet presented, however, came with some downsides for some Singaporean customers on Sunday. Many had to jostle with thousands of shoppers for parking space as well as a seat at IKEA’s cafe and restaurant.
By 11am on Sunday, IKEA’s Tebrau’s 1,771 parking bays were already fully occupied, and some customers resorted to parking illegally along the main road outside the store.
“I fully regret driving here,” said Mr Hu, who had to drive his car up a kerb. “We could have just taken a Grab here from the checkpoint. After all, we’re just buying small items,” he added.
The 750 seats at IKEA’s restaurants were also packed to the hilt from 11am-3pm, with some customers having to queue two hours for a seat.
“I haven’t had breakfast yet and it’s already afternoon,” said Mr Hu, who queued for an hour before his family of four found a table.
“But the meatballs and pasta here are so cheap – it would be a waste eating someplace else,” he said.
On its launch day last Thursday, pictures of large crowds of people queuing outside the store went viral.
But IKEA has clarified with Channel NewsAsia that the long queues were from people queuing to be the store’s first 10,000 customers, in order to win a free goodie bag.
“LITTLE INCENTIVE FOR SINGAPOREANS TO CROSS BORDER”: IKEA
Despite the difference in prices, an IKEA spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia that the company sees “little incentive” for Singaporean customers to cross the border just to shop at the Tebrau outlet, due to taxes and transportation of bulky items.
“We believe that Singaporeans will still be more inclined to shop at IKEA Alexandra and IKEA Tampines due to the convenience and proximity,” IKEA said. “Customers would also need to keep in mind that delivery and assembly cannot be arranged from the Malaysia stores for Singapore addresses,” it added.
IKEA told Channel NewsAsia that cross-border delivery is not offered “at the moment” but highlighted that IKEA can deliver to “any agency” appointed by the customer, including delivery companies that proved cross-border services.
Delivery costs from IKEA Tebrau to areas in Johor state ranging from RM80 to RM250 depending on distance.
Mr Louis Tan, a Singaporean who owns a second property in Johor Baru, told Channel NewsAsia that shopping at IKEA Tebrau will benefit him as he can purchase items and have them delivered to his address in Malaysia.
“I’m shopping for a kitchen cabinet and some items to refurbish my children’s rooms for our home in JB. There’s no way I can fit them into my car, so having them deliver and assemble is important,” said the 54-year-old oil and gas executive.
Mr Tan added that Singaporeans have to be practical when deciding whether to shop at IKEA Tebrau or the Singapore outlets.
“They have to do their math. Take into consideration everything – taxes at the Causeway, time stuck in the jam, petrol costs and the cost of bringing back the items,” he said.
“They have to decide if it’s worth it for them.”