FairPrice CEO gets down to stacks of work

It is 8.45am and Mr Seah Kian Peng is busy filling supermarket shelves. As told by a supervisor, he stacks cooking oil and detergent onto racks reserved for promotional items at a NTUC Fairprice outlet in Toa Payoh.

The 51-year-old however is not just any employee but the supermarket chain's chief executive.

His stint on Friday was part of an annual exercise for management to help them "empathise" with ground staff, said Mr Seah, who is also MP for Marine Parade GRC.

But on Friday was a bit more special. The reason he was at Toa Payoh was also to commemorate the retailer's 40th anniversary.

The outlet at Lorong 4 was Fairprice's first, opening on July 22, 1973 as NTUC Welcome to help curb profiteering with food prices going up due to a global oil crisis.

Fairprice has since expanded to over 270 stores, selling everything from electronics to groceries, and employing around 9,000.

To mark the anniversary, staff will be wearing new uniforms in the company's corporate colours of red and blue from next month.


It took two years to design the uniforms, said Mr Seah, with staff giving plenty of input into its look and feel.

He wants the company to grow its footprint by setting up stores in new residential areas. The challenge, he said, is to meet customers' needs without overlooking staff welfare.

While Mr Seah had little trouble with Friday's chore, he recalled a previous stint in which he had to check expiry dates on products, item by item.

"It was a tedious but necessary task," he said, explaining it helped him understand what employees went through. "But imagine doing that eight hours a day."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.