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No more lugging groceries home [Sunday Times (Islamabad)]
[July 26, 2014]

No more lugging groceries home [Sunday Times (Islamabad)]

(Sunday Times (Islamabad) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Lecturer Joshua Low and father of four may live within walking distance of NTUC FairPrice and Cold Storage supermarkets, but he shops for groceries and baby products on their online shopping portals.

He also stocks up on groceries from online retailer RedMart, which he uses twice a month, spending about $75 at a go.

Mr Low, 37, whose children are aged one to seven, says he prefers the convenience of online grocery shopping so that he does not have to lug bulky items such as milk powder, diapers and bags of rice. The Lows, who live in a three-room HDB flat in Bukit Batok, do not drive.

"When my wife was pregnant, it was difficult for her to carry stuff as well as handle young children running around in the supermarket." Consumers such as Mr Low have taken to online supermarket shopping, especially for groceries and non-perishable items that can be delivered to their doorstep. This means fewer trips to the wet market or supermarket.

Last week, The Sunday Times reported that three-year-old RedMart, an online grocery retailer, is getting a US$23 million (S$28.5 million) boost from high-profile investors such as Facebook co-founder and billionaire Eduardo Saverin.

Its revenue is growing at about 20 per cent month-on-month and it is moving from a 14,000 sq ft warehouse in Jurong Port Road to a 100,000 sq ft warehouse in the same area in October.

Supermarket chains such as NTUC FairPrice have seen online deliveries and transactions increasing by about 15 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

FairPrice Online, which was launched in 2003, has about 45,000 active online subscribers, an increase of 20 per cent from last year.

Prime Supermarket, which started its online business in 2011, has seen a constant 20 per cent year-on-year increase in sales.

Shoppers say they like online grocery shopping because it is convenient and easy to use.

According to the supermarket chains, there is no difference in the prices of goods at their online portals and at the outlets. But there is sometimes a time lag for discounted items to be updated online.

The range of products available online, however, is not as wide as what is available at the outlets although supermarkets, encouraged by the growing demand, are constantly adding to their range of online products.

Mr Low, for instance, prefers to use certain brands of diapers and wet wipes. "We still buy them from the supermarkets if any of the brands we like are not available on the sites." Supermarket chains say the majority of their customers are working executives, parents and housewives.

A Sheng Siong spokesman also notes that 3 to 5 per cent of its delivery accounts have a different billing address from the delivery address.

These may be customers who order groceries for their parents or grandparents who do not live with them.

While the majority of items ordered online are for non-perishable goods such as toilet rolls, mineral water, diapers, milk powder and detergents, the demand for fresh produce is increasing.

The Sheng Siong spokesman says: "About 90 per cent of our online orders have fresh items such as dairy products, fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood on their lists." RedMart, which carries about 6,000 non-perishable products, will start selling fresh produce by the end of the year in response to customer demand.

Delivery charges range from $6.50 for orders less than $80 at Prime Supermarket to $12 for orders less than $60 at Cold Storage and Giant.

At Sheng Siong, an order of $70 and above gets the customer free delivery. RedMart offers free delivery for orders above $75 and Prime does free delivery for orders above $80.

FairPrice, Cold Storage and Giant all charge $7 each for orders above $60.

Except for Sheng Siong, which delivers to selected locations, the other supermarkets deliver islandwide.

To ensure product freshness, items are packed close to their delivery time and chilled products are stored in cooler boxes with dry ice.

All the supermarkets have refund or exchange policies for damaged or missing items.

For e-commerce manager Luisa Lai and her husband Lee Zheng Wei, both 32, buying groceries on FairPrice Online has saved them the hassle of making bulk purchases since they moved into their four-room Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flat in Yishun in January this year.

Everything in their larder, from canned food and drinks to cartons of mineral water and bottles of sauces, is ordered online. The couple also shop online for frozen food such as sliced pork and crab claws.

Ms Lai, who shops online for clothes and cat food, says: "We picked FairPrice because of familiarity with the brand. The limitations of buying online is that it may lack variety. I couldn't find croutons, and the brand of pet food I use.

"Also, I like walking around the supermarket and there's also the perception that you can get better offers at the store itself.

"But I do think we will shop online more frequently, especially if the minimum spending for free delivery is lowered." Project manager Connie Lee, 40, and her mother, who have been shopping at Sheng Siong's online site since January this year - have ordered fresh produce such as cuttlefish, watermelons, onions and garlic online.

She buys groceries online every one to two months and spends about $150 to $250 each time.

For her order last month, she received over-ripe honey pineapples, rice with weevils and rotten and soggy onions and garlic.

Ms Lee, who is married with no children and lives in a five-room HDB flat in Bishan with her parents, says: "Sheng Siong acted promptly and replaced all our items within a week at no additional cost. Because of this, my mum is more confident of ordering such fresh items again." (c) 2014 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

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