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Department Stores in Indonesia

Shopping in Indonesia’s metropolitan centers takes many forms, from the most traditional pasar (markets) to glitzy world class malls with international designer shops. Many expatriates are drawn to the excellent department stores that can be found in the city.

Many of these are the Jakarta branch of an international department store chain, featuring all the services and products one would expect from a good department store back home. These include Metro (Singapore) and Sogo (Japan), Debenhams (England), and Marks and Spencers (England).

There is no need to race around town from store to store or market looking for various items, when a great selection of personal and household needs can all be found under one roof in a department store.

What can you find in a department store in Indonesia … pretty much the same variety of goods that you would find in a department store at home. You could expect to find women’s clothing, men’s clothing, children’s clothing, infant’s clothing and goods, cosmetics, accessories, men’s shoes, women’s shoes, household linens, kitchen items, and general home furnishing items.

Some of the larger department stores would also have electronics, home appliances, bookstore, stationery, art supplies, Indonesian handicrafts, music and DVDs, a pharmacy, and supermarket.

Members Programs

Most of the better department stores in Jakarta have a membership/loyalty program, which rewards frequent customers for their continued business. Ask at the customer service desk for information on any program that the store has and the benefits of becoming a member.

To become a member you have to purchase over a certain amount (usually something like Rp. 500,000 in one day). You are issued a card, which you then present each time you make a purchase.

The membership then entitles you to special discounts, early announcements of sales and notice of new products coming into the store. In most stores the amount of your purchase is recorded when you show your loyalty card and points are awarded towards your account. The points that you earn accumulate and can be traded towards a number of items ranging in value from small household appliances to weekends in Bali.

Cardholders are sometimes offered special “after hours” shopping where members only are allowed to shop for two hours after the store has closed. The store offers huge discounts on many items during this time period. It is a way for the store to clear out the stock before the new season’s shipments are displayed. While this program can be very successful for the stores, shoppers normally spend the majority of the special sale lined up in front of the cashier!

Personal Shopper Services

Some of the higher end departments offer a Personal Shopping Service for its customers. This service is a personalized presentation shopping session where you sit in a lounge and staff will bring items to show you while you are relaxing and enjoying refreshments. Personal shopping is by appointment only. When you make the appointment you tell their staff the items that you would like to view and if necessary the sizes of the item and they will get various items ready that you’ve informed them that you want to look at.

The emphasis is on customer service to make ensure your shopping experience is as private and enjoyable as possible. The service is also helpful when shopping for items for other people when you are not sure what they would like. Husbands no longer have to fret about shopping for their wife’s birthday or special occasions as personal shoppers are very helpful in suggesting appropriate items. For busy people who do not have a lot of time to spare, this service can also help to speed up the time you spend shopping. Personal shoppers may also point out appropriate items that otherwise you may have overlooked yourself and help you to make a perfect selection.

Differences from Department Stores at Home

You will undoubtedly find many differences in the way department stores operate in Indonesia compared to your home country. One of those differences is that the department stores do not offer their own credit cards, due to the difficulties in collecting payments.

Another difference is the use of “nota” in some department stores, for example Pasaraya Grande and Matahari. In stores that use this system you will see signs near displayed items that say “pakai nota”. This means that you must get a small written bill from the salesperson responsible for that section of the sales floor and take it to a centralized cashier for payment. This is normally done because each individual area or “counter” is stocked by a separate business entity and has a commission agreement with the department store. You don’t take the item to the cashier, just the slip of paper then pay for the item. Sometimes the sales girl will have brought your items to the counter and then the cashier and her assistant will find your items located in small cupboards behind the cash register. In other stores you will pay for the item and then return to the area of the store where you chose your item to complete your purchase by picking up the item. Where the department store is all under one ownership, and they do not use the commission system, you do not need to collect several receipts and pay at the cashier.

If you’re not sure what the protocol in a store is, just ask one of the sales staff “Ini pakai nota atau bayar langsung?”

Another important item of etiquette to note - in the shops inside malls and department bargaining is rarely done. The prices are fixed – harga pas – and clearly marked with an affixed price tag.

One big difference in department stores in Indonesia that you will notice right away is the easy availability of sales staff, unlike many stores in the west where the staff can only be found at the cashier stand. It seems they are all over the store, and usually are quite eager to help.

In some stores, the company that owns the counter, rents the space form the department store and therefore has to staff their own counter. This means that the sales girls on the floors are employees of many different companies and not the department stores, even though they are all wearing the store’s uniform. They are responsible for the stock of only one counter and if any items go missing they are accountable to their employing company for the loss of stock. This has lead to the practice of only displaying a few items only in one size and if you want it in another size, you have to ask for it. Often they keep the extra items in a drawer or cupboard under the display area. Don’t expect the floor staff to speak English. Some staff will be afraid to approach a foreigner because they are scared that they might be asked to speak in English. However if you put a smile on your face and try to communicate with them normally, they can usually work out what you want. Don’t be afraid to pull out your phrase book and practice your fledgling Bahasa Indonesia!

Another common practice is the overuse of packaging when bagging items. Many stores use a LOT of bags and closures to bag up items. We’re not sure of the reason/s … perhaps it’s to prevent people from looking into your bag and seeing what you have bought, if the person is using public transportation to go home. Or perhaps it helps prevent shoplifting additional items before a shopper leaves the store as the original bag is taped up or stapled up or tied up.

Variety of Department Stores

Within the metropolitan cities you’ll find a wide variety of department stores, all catering to a different target market. Metro, Sogo, and Debenhams are targeting the middle and upper class that is emerging in Indonesia. Many working young executives are now enjoying buying power that they did not have 10 years ago.

Department stores like Pasaraya Grande and Batik Keris are good for convenient everyday shopping plus Indonesian handicrafts. These two department stores dedicate entire floors or sections of the store to traditional handicrafts, clothing, and textiles and are therefore favorites of tourists and expatriates alike.

Local department stores like Matahari and Ramayana serve a lower income population with a variety of goods that are a step above the traditional market in quality.

Large sizes

As one can imagine, the majority of customers in the Indonesian department stores are going to be Asians, with their smaller stature. Therefore, if you are a “plus” size or wear shoes larger than a 43 (European sizing), you’re going to have problems finding clothing and shoes to fit in most department stores. If this is the case, try shopping at the factory outlet stores that offer factory overruns of items for export, which tend to have larger sizes, or utilize the services of a tailor or seamstress. For more information, read Factory Outlet Shopping and Tailors.

Safety while Shopping

Wherever you shop in the city, be sure to watch your purse and phone. Don’t expect that just because you are in a high-end mall that there aren’t any pickpockets … in fact the incidence of theft is undoubtedly higher in the better malls where the more well-to-do people shop. Also, watch your cell phone, making sure it’s not easily accessible in an outer pocket of your purse.

Another big issue when shopping in Indonesia is credit card fraud in Indonesia, so read more about it!

Read more about Shopping in Jakarta.