updated 10 Jan 2012, 17:07
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Fri, Dec 30, 2011
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Confessions of a Shopaholic
by Farrah Naz Karim

For an unabashed shopaholic whose friends cannot seem to fathom why she believes that Hollywood should have silver-screened Shophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic in 3D, the opening of Johor Premium Outlets, simply made her year.

Never mind if those Star Wars nerds were to argue where's the cinematic experience in that, as only the likes of Rebecca Bloom who can transcend to another world with the mere sight of that green Dolce and Gabbana crinkled scarf could understand what touching, what more take home that elusive designer item can do for the soul.

So, with my credit card limit balance raised again and boot cleared out, my perfectly picked, highly tolerant shopping partner and I made that over 300km drive down south to what my eyes would vouch as the most welcoming sight of the North South Expressway.

As a sign of more good things coming our way, the buggy driver who happened to stop just a few cars away from my SUV parked in the vast parking area, very obligingly took us on a guided spin of the sprawling JPO which sits on a 1.6ha phase one of the upscale outlet centre.

Reminding me a little of the magnificent Citadel of Saladin in Egypt I visited a couple of years back.

I thought the trip would provide superb photo opportunities for me and my girlfriends who have without fail, enter-framed even when we are definitely not the subject of the person behind the lenses.

So with a rough idea of how to best tackle the outlets, I led our exploration team, slowly taking in the offerings from the window displays to the exquisite items calling out to me from the shelves.

Our first stop was lot 302 selling cosmetics and designer fragrances. As an ardent collector of designer perfumes, I found it so "not me" to leave empty-handed.

Alas, I was beaten to the shelves byjust a day after opening by the same people I'm sure who had been pulling all-nighters at malls just to be the first in town to own the latest gadgets.

Them and the stream of Singaporeans preferring to spur the Malaysian economy rather than their own year-end sale.

Settling with making a mental note that two seasons from now (when designer goods get a new lease of life at JPO) I will come back as they will have restocked that RM70 Lancome perfume. I was desperately running out of mental pads when several stores I entered had, what wereto me, almost barren shelves.

Okay, probably they underestimated the number of people needing serious retail therapy, but on my next visit, aside from hoping to see the snaking queue at Coach and Burberry easing a little, it would make my day if I could get a pair of buttocks-enhancing Levi's in every colour, as cheap as RM45 that were snapped up on opening day.

I peered through the glass walls of Coach and successfully teleported the smartly-attired outlet assistant to me and after a worthwhile five-minute wait, I discovered that the pink sequined Poppy bag that I had been eyeing was 50 per cent cheaper than in their boutiques.

No, I was not allowed to slide him the money for a quick purchase.

Moving along the beautifully landscaped grounds of JPO, we made our way upstairs, passing gleeful kids (and dads) giving their mommies some alone time to flex their biceps with shopping bags filled with goodies perhaps from Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, DKNY, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Calvin Klein or maybe Tommy Hilfiger (some of the 80 outlets).

Though the point of such outlets is to offer upscale international names, I appreciate the fact that JPO also features homegrown names like Pink Jambu and Padini, which provide the opportunity for spring-board enthusiasts to dive into piles of discounted garments.

When hunger pangs hit, my shopping partner Husna and I were not really spoilt for choice.

We settled for the Japanese restaurant Kampachi as we could not afford to waste time queuing for a table at other eateries.

At times like that, one could only wish that the regular mamak with super-fast servers would set up a branch at one of JPO's corners, plus inject more of "Malaysia" into the place.

To bump into the same groups of enthusiastic male shoppers (many in office attire: read unloosened ties) whose shopping bags seem to multiply as the minutes go by, there is surely something for everyone, young or old, wallets well-padded or not at these outlets which promise everyday savings of at least between 25 and 65 per cent.

Our day-long exploration proceeded at a snail's pace as the weight of my shopping bags continued to go up.

With new get-ups for my two princesses, lingerie for me... and hubby, shoes, shoes, shoes and cosmetics... I left a happy shopper.

But no, I couldn't find that elusive green scarf.

There is still hope though as there are plans for a second phase of JPO with an additional 60 lots, a water park and 2,000-room hotel, and an international convention. Perfect!

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