I should point out that this will probably only be useful to you if you are like me. Totally inept when it comes to retail excursions. Let me be even more clear on this: Retailers hope for a certain amount of cluelessness when it comes to their ideal customer. Milk is displayed on the opposite side of the shop to bread. So popping in to get the essentials, will expose a customer to the shiny, colourful products that must be passed in order to put just those essentials into a basket. The unaware customer will inadvertently find a full basket by the time he or she arrives at the milk fridge.

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I am aware of the dangers and yet find myself dazzled and overwhelmed by choice. I have been known to pop out for eggs and bread and arrived back home with edamame beans, a magazine and a lottery ticket. My wife can arrive with a shopping list as long as her forearm as well as seventeen items stored in her head and finish the shopping in twenty minutes while Facebooking and herding 2 children. I suspect that somehow she has onboard access to a blueprint of the layout of most supermarket brands organised alphabetically by province. Her abilities are nothing short of superhuman.

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With this in mind perhaps it was inevitable that the first family visit to the new Junction would be a character building experience. With bright and shiny eyes, my family of four arrived at the new mall for the first time mere days after the opening. Hand in hand, experts and forever novices, we strode forth towards the marble tiles and spacious modern interiors hoping to buy a few necessities less than a basketful for sure.

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Two hours later we emerged, exhausted, with two full trolleys, two weepy children, a stubbed toe and much less shiny eyes. But we were wiser in the way of retail These 5 Tips were the lessons gleaned from our hard earned experience…

1. Always check to see when there are really good black Friday type specials on. Not only will the shopping aisles swell to capacity at such time, but specials are the kryptonite to retail superhero skills. Gone was my wife the centre of calm and control behind a trolley. In her place was a specialĀ driven crazy person who cast aside the shopping list and accelerated towards percentage signs.

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2. Leave the husband and kids behind if possible. 1 year olds basically see a world of building blocks in need of bashing down. 5 year olds use the opportunity to sing a Frozen ballad to a passing audience at the top of their lungs, and husbands bounce around like a bewildered particle caught up in brownian motion, being of little use at all. (If they do have to come along..there are amazing waiting areas outside the shops in the new mall. Designed originally for the waiting areas on the space ship Enterprise and pretty comfortable looking.)

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3. Be aware that no husband has any resistance if he should stumble into Taylor’s Meats. It has the coolest biltong display ever and every kind of biltong and droewors you can imagine. It is great. And there is coffee. And fresh hot food. Glorious.

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4. This new shopping centre is big. Conserve your energy and excitement. We went out too hard too soon, and without adequate nutrition and hydration. There are caffeine stocked watering points at regular intervals to help with this.

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5. There are friendly information officers and electronic touch screen maps to help strategise the perfect retail experience. Also they will even point out when one of your children is happily marching off with intent in the opposite direction to her parents .

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Believe it or not I have been back a few times since then. Getting straight back on that horse and all that. I can’t expect my wife to be the only one to do the grocery shopping after all. And also..(and probably more honestly) there are still a few varieties of biltong that I have yet to sample…

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All images and words by Christopher Allan. For more, you can visit www.chrisallan.co.za