Earlier in March, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Needless to say, the crowds were massive, with people queueing for hours just to get into the shop.
It’s been a month and the hype has died down a little – so I thought it would be a good time to check out what they have in store.
I went on a weekday afternoon, and thankfully there was no queue. The entrance is on the second floor, so you’ll have to go up a couple of escalators. I suggest parking at Fahrenheit 88 nearby and walking over. It’s also advisable to go to the toilet beforehand, as there is no toilet inside the store and the toilets at Lot 10 have a 50-cent charge.
For the uninitiated, Don Don Donki (or Don Quijote as it is known in Japan) is a popular Japanese discount chain store with over 160 shops nationwide, and a strong presence in Asian Pacific markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and now Malaysia. They are known for being open till late (some shops are open 24 hours), and for having a distinctive retail concept which features aisles packed from floor to ceiling with goods.
I have been to a Donki store in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer – what with the explosion of colours, loud posters and merchandise everywhere. The Malaysian outlet has a similar design, with narrow aisles filled with all sorts of products imaginable, from toys and clothing, to cosmetics and snacks, most of which are imported from Japan. Unlike hypermarkets where there are clear signages indicating the sections, Don Don Donki’s layout is a jumble: everything here seems to vie for your attention.
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Entering the store, you will come to the household goods and kitchenware section, and an area selling gym equipment and Donki merchandise such as plushies, toys and bags. The kitchen is located on this floor as well, and you can watch the staff preparing the food through glass windows.
The aisles here are very narrow, so even when there aren’t too many people, the place can feel cramped and claustrophobic. I don’t think SOPs were followed strictly (or should I say, it can’t be enforced due to the tight space?). At the snack aisles, for example, there was only room for 2 people to walk through, and I had to back-peddle out of the aisles several times whenever I saw people coming from the other end – there was simply no room for me to squeeze through.
Cosmetics section with vanity mirrors.
The second floor wasn’t really my thing – I was more interested in the first floor, which is where they sell fresh produce and food items. When going down the staircase, the Don Don Donki staff will ask if they can help with your basket or trolley, which is a nice gesture.
There is a wide selection of produce to choose from, including meat and vegetables, and of course, seafood. Following the design theme, every inch of this floor is packed with products – even the ceilings are filled with decorations. They also have these giant monitors playing interviews with farm owners / fishermen, which may tell you more about how the seafood was caught, or how crops were cultivated before they ended up in store.
The ready-to-eat section is an island counter laden with items such as chicken karaage, kaki furai (fried oyster), tori nanban, donburi bowls, fried squid, and more. The food is kept under heated lamps to keep them warm, but you can also reheat them upon checkout. Some of the food contains alcohol (such as the unagi don), so remember to check the labels if you’re unable to consume alcohol.
Moving on to the ground floor, there are more food items including a section for fruits and dried goods.
The aisles before checkout are also packed with easy-to-grab goods, to get customers to get a couple more items before payment. There are a lot of checkout counters, so payment is fast. They also bag up your items for you. If you’ve purchased food, you can proceed back up to the first floor, where there is a dining area outside the shop.
Coming here is an exercise in self control. There are so many interesting things to buy, but if you’re not careful, it can blow a big hole in your wallet. I wanted to keep my budget below RM50, so I only got the above: the most expensive item was the tonkotsu instant noodles (RM12+), followed by the baked cheese cake snacks (RM9.90), the caramel corn snacks (RM8.50) and two cream puffs (RM5.90 each).
So how was my experience at Don Don Donki Malaysia?
While the selection of products is not as extensive as their outlets in Japan, I think there is still plenty to see and buy here, especially food items. Prices are premium, but that is to be expected, given that most of the goods are brought in from Japan, and you do get some unique things that you won’t be able to find in local grocery stores or hypermarkets. The displays are very colourful and attractive, but it can get tiring after awhile due to the visual and sensory overload.
That being said, there are a few things that the shop can improve on. The aisles are narrow, so getting people to follow SOPS is a challenge. It’s also not comfortable to take your time and shop, as it can get crowded and stuffy. I would suggest coming on a weekday, if possible. If not, then maybe come earlier on the weekend. Store opening hours are from 8AM – 12PM.
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