MIRI: The resort city of Miri is a shopper’s paradise, as far as Bruneians are concerned whose weekend begins on Thursday, despite recent figures showing a decline.
According to many Mirians, the favourite shopping malls frequented by the visitors are the Bintang Plaza and Boulevard Shopping Mall although they have now shifted their focus to E-mart shopping arcade and the new Permy Mall in Senadin which is much nearer to the Brunei/Sarawak border.
A manager from Hotel Resort, Walter Stanley, told The Borneo Post Adventure Team (BAT) that Bruneians are still the biggest weekend spenders as they visit Miri not only to do their weekly shopping but also to have a great time, especially during long school holidays.
“They also go for entertainments and other recreational activities available in the city. Definitely they take advantage of the good exchange rate of their currency which is very much in their favour to obtain whatever goods and services they need. This is good for the local economy and helps many business entities in the city,” he said.
“Their presence also drives some local food and beverage outlets to mark up their prices but Mirians have got used to this and they find alternative shopping areas where prices for goods and services are pretty much affordable,” he added.
Stanley described Miri as a nice city, with most of its multiracial residents and business people working very hard.
“Those who work in the private sector, especially in the oil and gas industry whether they are expatriates or locals have good income.
“The influx of people from Brunei plus the locals and expatriates who are also high income earners had also helped trigger the higher cost of living in the city. Prices of goods and services have also increased in relation with what these people are earning,” added Stanley.
On the other hand, a staff of an international brand, Maza Qayra, said compared to previous years fewer Bruneians now patronise their shop.
“We did our own market and sales survey and we recorded a 30 per cent drop in the number of Bruneian shoppers coming to buy our products especially during the weekend. We know they are from Brunei from the membership cards they show when buying the products,” she added.
Qayra who had worked with the company for five years revealed that Bruneian customers on average spent RM250, which is about 100 Bruneian Dollars.
“So obviously, their spending power is stronger than locals’ and things are cheaper here compared to the costs of the same items in Brunei,” she added.
Bruneian Khamis Mohamad said he did not make as many trips to Miri now as he used to do because he preferred to go to Kota Kinabalu to shop and enjoy the recreational facilities there.
“The majority of Bruneians go to Sabah because the shopping malls in Kota Kinabalu have more variety than in Miri. On top of that, there are more resorts there offering more recreational activities even though it takes us almost eight hours to drive there,” he explained.
Khamis, a father of six, said he was in Miri because of the school holidays, and brought some of his and relative’s children to shop and have a bit of fun there.
“We chose to come today because it is nearer compared to Kota Kinabalu and the children are having a school term break.
“Perhaps more Bruneians will come back to Miri if the shops here have more variety and recreational activities are established in the city. Until then I think the people from the sultanate will focus on Kota Kinabalu,” added Khamis who works for a religious department in Brunei.
Teenager Mohamad Aiman Syuwari told BAT that he was in Miri to shop for clothing and shoes.
“I seldom come unless my family brings me here and I like Miri because there are more choices, especially food,” he said.
He added that he was joined by a few young friends to enjoy some good beverages at a Starbucks outlet which they have yet to come across in Brunei.
Aiman revealed that on average he would spent about 150 Bruneian Dollars during the weekend here, telling BAT that with the exchange rate the amount would translate into more than RM350.
“I do not know what Miri city can offer to the young people from Brunei but we hope that they will have something that can get our parents to prefer this place over Kota Kinabalu,” he chuckled.