Fri, 22 Dec 2000

Outlets bringing in domestic tourists

By Kafil Yamin

BANDUNG (JP): "Irma" played a part in Bandung's notorious traffic congestion on a recent weekend.

She bundled all her family members into two vans, and headed from their home in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, to Bandung, a three-hour drive.

And all the 32 year old was in search of, as she put it, were "very friendly priced clothes".

She said she was not an avid shopper, but she could not resist a bargain. "My friends told me that I could afford to buy clothes they were wearing. So we came here," she said.

Bandung has become a favorite destination of Jakarta residents for what have become known as "shopping vacations". Outlets, selling brand-name goods at discount prices, have sprouted up across the city, from the hillside suburb of Dago to downtown.

It's the price that counts, shoppers say, as well as the fact that Bandung is so close to the capital. It can be reached easily by road or rail.

"Go to Sogo department store in Jakarta to buy Versace jeans, and it will cost you Rp 250,000 or so. I can buy it here for Rp 75,000! It's a more friendly rate," said Natasha, a teenager who arrived at one outlet in a car loaded down with her friends.

Natasha said she could buy classy clothes at cheap prices.

"I find the price margin (compared to Jakarta store prices) is around 75 percent to 150 percent on average," she said.

Every weekend, vehicles bearing "B" license plates from Jakarta crowd the outlets' parking spaces.

"It's as if the spots (factory outlets) are specially prepared for the people from Jakarta," grumbled Nani Sumarni, a Bandung resident who was shopping at the Otten One factory outlet but could not find a parking space.

Her complaint has some truth to it. As more and more Jakartans come for inexpensive clothes, bags and shoes, they are fueling a growing industry, with outlets opening up seemingly every day.

"We are definitely responding to the exciting potential from buyers from Jakarta," said Otten One manager Dede.

He said profits exceeded his expectations when he opened the outlet two months ago. Not only does his outlet draw many shoppers, he receives huge orders from his friends in Jakarta.

"They do not have time for weekends these days, so they ask me to send the clothes," he said.

Outlets are successful in feeding those who are brand-minded and hunger for foreign quality goods. Shoppers can find Aigner, Gucci, DKNY, Chaps, Calvin Klein, Guess or Gap, which were produced by Indonesian firms under export licenses.

It is the remainder from the export quotas that make it to the outlets. And factory outlets, at least for middle scale business standards, are not a big investment.

Outlet owners spend less for the "leftovers", even though they sell them at lower prices. It is the volume of sales which offsets the slight margin.

Dede rented an old house on Jl. Dr. Otten and renovated it into an outlet of his own style. He sells from 200 to 300 items of clothing a day. During the weekend, sales rise to 500 to 600 pieces.

He is one of the many trying for success in the business. During the last seven months, at least 30 new outlets have opened.

Dede said the outlets were only one of the attractions drawing people to the city, but the "main attraction" was Bandung itself.

He said Bandung had everything it took to be an attractive city.

"If you spend the weekend in Puncak (mountain resort, West Java), for example, you will just indulge yourself in relaxing, jogging, unwinding or eating fruit. Here in Bandung, you can move easily from one spot to another for different forms of leisure."

Hotels are fully occupied during the weekend. Some travelers from Jakarta said they would not have got a room if they had not booked early in the week.

For travelers on a budget, there is cheaper accommodation available.

Gudrun, a Canadian who watches every penny, said she stayed in a rough-and-ready accommodation for only Rp 20,000 a night. "It was dirty, but the important thing was it was safe -- and cheap."