With her immaculately manicured nails and perfectly styled hair, Merry wouldn’t look out of place as a cast member of “Sex and the City: Jakarta.” But it isn’t just the look that would make her a good fit. She’s got the shopping chops to match — ready to whip out her trusty credit card morning, noon or night whenever a sale is afoot.
Lately, Merry’s bargain barometer has been keeping her and her friends out into the wee hours, chasing the promise of low-priced luxury goods at the city’s malls and department stores.
Midnight sales have becoming an increasingly popular tactic in the war on our wallets in Jakarta, enticing semi-professional shoppers like Merry and her crew, as well as those simply looking for an alternative nightlife option, to hit the city’s shopping centers in search of bargains well past most people’s bedtimes.
During these promotional sales, large discounts are offered after regular shopping hours, usually from 10 p.m. until the clock strikes 12.
Midnight sales are offered by malls throughout the year, usually before holidays like Ramadan and Christmas.
As part of the celebrations for the city’s anniversary this month, a program called Festival Jakarta Great Sale 2011, organized by the Indonesia Shopping Center Management Association (Appbi), is being held until July 17.
Sixty-eight malls are participating in the event, offering discounts of 10 to 70 percent. Many of the participating venues are also running midnight promotions over the weekends.
Dinda, who works as a department store clerk in Central Jakarta, said she has seen the public response to midnight shopping ramp up significantly over time.
She said that the first time she worked during a midnight shopping promo a few years ago, “there were only a few people who came.”
Now, Dinda said, every time there is a midnight shopping promo in the mall where she works, “all the stores are packed and the lines are very long.”
Dinda speculates the reason is that many people simply have more money to spend these days. “I don’t know what’s happening, but I guess people are getting richer all the time.”
But shoppers like Merry say it’s about more than just finding new ways to spend her cash.
“I think it’s great for friendships” she said. “It’s a girls’ night out, so I can hang out with my friends until late at night looking for nice clothes. It’s a great release for everyday stress.”
Merry says her entourage prefers to shop in malls “where the nice clothes are.”
“There is a special midnight shopping budget, which my husband understands I deserve,” she said.
Rather reluctantly, Merry admitted that the gals in her group usually spend around Rp 5 million to 10 million ($580 to $1,160) during every midnight shopping spree. Their shopping center of choice is Plaza Indonesia, which is renowned for its international luxury brand outlets.
“We can save up to Rp 5 million or so on some items outside the normal shopping hours,” one of Merry’s friends said.
While the more luxurious malls might attract the likes of Merry and her friends, not all midnight shoppers are exercising their credit cards. “I like that you can hang out [at the malls] until late — at the food court or something — because sometimes you don’t know where to go after it closes and you still have the whole weekend ahead of you,” says Henry Ng, a 23-year-old university student who likes to spend his weekend with his “bachelor crew.”
“Especially since all the movies [showing in local cinemas] are bad, we’ve had to look for new hang-out places like cafes or friends’ homes, which is not really our style,” he said, adding that he prefers higher-end malls, such as his favorite, Senayan City.
For 20-something Bryan Hirawan — another Senayan City fan — midnight shopping is a welcome escape from the usual club-hopping.
“I get bored of going to clubs or music cafes, so it’s a good alternative — and it makes for better dates, really.”
Others love the fact that midnight shopping is a chance for them to finally buy all the things they’ve been saving up for.
Diandra Hamid, a 29-year-old aspiring actress, said she and her friends — as well as her mother — rely on their collection of window-shopping lists to decide what they want to buy should a midnight sale occur at one of their favorite malls.
“We just wait until the discount is high, which is usually during these midnight sales. Then we go and buy all the things we’ve been craving — but at lower prices,” Diandra said.
Still, midnight shopping comes at a price — especially for some unwilling companions.
“Man, do I get tired of waiting for [my fiancee] to browse the whole store,” said Metta, a 31-year-old businessman.
He joked that he is filled with dread every time he sees a sign for a midnight sale, because “I know that’s going to be a boring weekend for me.”
Randy, 26, is just the opposite.
A sharply-dressed shopping enthusiast, Randy said he often drives his girlfriend mad due to his obsessive nature when shopping, which makes him “the type of guy who spends an hour picking the best Polo shirt I can find.”
Pluit Junction is the spot he usually combs for his clothes. “It’s great because I sometimes have to work on Saturdays, and midnight shopping gives me the time to catch up on my clothes shopping,” he says.
“I don’t mind the shopping,” said Riz, Randy’s girlfriend. “But it’s much more fun to shop at regular hours and then go to the movies or something. Trying to pick out clothes while you are sleepy is no fun.”
Additional reporting by Tasa Nugraza Barley
Late Night Sale June 24-25 Plaza Indonesia
Late Night Shopping June 24-25 Emporium
Pluit Mall Sale June 24-25 Mall of Indonesia Midnight Salebration June 24-25