As the doors open to Suntec Exhibition Hall 401, the crowds — faces tight and eyes wide with anticipation, maps, cash and huge bags clutched to their chests — descend like a human wave into the huge, cavernous halls. Within minutes, the shelves are cleared out as people shovel baby essentials into their giant bags, oblivious to the chaos around them.
No – this is not the plot of a great escape from an impending zombie apocalypse, but what goes on for three traumatic days at Singapore’s mega baby fairs (this weekend’s Super Mom Bazaar at Suntec is on until this Sunday).
A twice-yearly affair that evokes intense, quivering excitement in young parents all across Singapore, baby fair crowds alone are enough to make a normal person want to turn his back and run for dear life.
But pass up on huge savings from heavily discounted baby diapers? Give up the chance to save $4 on a tin of annoyingly expensive infant formula?
“Never!” screams the tiny kiasu Singaporean voice hidden in all of us.
So gird your loins, and get ready to swarm these fairs – armed with our top tips, shopping strategies and inside info gleaned from interviews with baby fair experts (read: broke parents).
Survival Tip #1: Don’t bring your pram. And if you can, don’t bring the baby either
Unless you want to end up stuck at the back of every line or sweating in frustration when you can’t get to the toy that you so desperately want, don’t bring your stroller. No one is going to give way to you, and your baby isn’t going to enjoy being hit in the face by boxes, shopping bags and bodies as you bulldoze your way through the masses.
If your baby can’t handle crowds, leave him or her at home. The last thing you need as you stand in line for 45 minutes to pay for your items is a red-faced screaming toddler who may or may not vomit his lunch on you after being deprived of his afternoon nap.
“The first time I brought my baby when he was a month old, I spent the whole shopping trip worrying about people knocking into him and his crying, so I left after 15 minutes empty-handed. Now, I only bring him if I need to try out a new pram, carrier or playmat,” said teacher Lim Wei Ting, 31, who also stores her son’s clothes size and measurements on her phone so she can instantly check if the baby clothes will fit.
Survival Tip #2: Plan, print and bring cash
Most baby fairs release “maps” or “guides” of the various vendors up to a month in advance of the fair. Print out or download the map on your phone and plan, plan, plan. Plan the route you want to take, or the stores you want to make a beeline for. Mark out key landmarks so you get a feel for the layout even before you get to the fair.
Not everything is cheaper at the fair – supermarkets also have sales on diapers, which are comparable to fair prices. Online sites like Qoo10 and Rakuten also hold diaper sales for Japanese and Korean brands.
“When you buy your diapers in bulk, remember to ask for multiple sizes as babies outgrow the smaller sizes very fast,” said frequent fair-goer Damien Ng, 35.
“I ended up with 3 extra packs of newborn diapers as my son put on weight very fast and wasting money as I gave them away.”
Remember to bring cash and also your Nets card – many smaller vendors do not accept credit cards or charge extra for credit card use.
Survival Tip #3: Go off-peak or tag-team
Contrary to popular belief, not all the good stuff is gone on the first day. Most diaper brands re-stock daily and other big names like TollyJoy and Pigeon regularly replenish finished stocks. Go early on the last day and you’ll probably stand as good a chance (and only endure half the crowd) as the first day.
To be more efficient, consider these strategies:
1) Tag-team as a couple. One person makes the purchases while another waits outside, watching over the larger ones. Carrying all your purchases with you as you shop will weigh you down and tire you out quickly.
2) Ask if there is a delivery service and if it’s free with a minimum purchase – especially for diapers and formula, which are a pain to lug home.
The final rule that applies to all shopping in general? Stay focussed.
“I once went to buy a pacifier but ended up coming home with a playpen, a tricycle and a whole bag full of musical toys,” said baby fair shopaholic Sindy Nee, 29, who estimates that she can spend up to $1,000 at baby fairs.
My hubby and I set out to test all these tips and rules at the ongoing Super Mom Bazaar at Suntec on Friday, and stuck to every rule except the last.
Discipline – just a baby carrier, I told my husband — our five-month-old daughter needs a bigger one.
Which is how we ended up with everything but the carrier – a new mini baby grand piano, four tins of formula, sachets of overpriced organic powdered puree (the packaging of the exotically named chi-chi Kale, Squash and Banana mash were just too pretty to resist).
But what’s the fun in only getting what you really need?
And judging by the steady stream of parents staggering under the weight of coveted Jumperoos, organic creams, diapers and high chairs, their faces shining with triumph, we were not alone.
The smell of victory, mixed with sweat, sour milk and baby powder, fills the air. They are satisfied.
Till the next baby fair.
-My article was also published on Yahoo! Singapore, where I work as a general news, entertainment and lifestyle reporter 🙂 –
Do you have any other tips on how to survive a baby fair? Please share them if you do! 🙂