Grocers riding online boom

SINGAPORE - As more Singaporeans opt for convenience to buy groceries with a click of the mouse, supermarkets are either increasing their offerings or launching delivery services online.

And the online cash registers of these supermarkets are busy ringing in the sales as a result.

Giant supermarket is the latest grocery retailer to set up shop online to cater to this trend. Launched on Sept 31, Giant Online joins other supermarkets that have already established their online presence, such as FairPrice, Prime and Cold Storage - with the latter the first to do so in 1997.

The only major supermarket without an online store is Sheng Siong, which will launch a pilot online shopping project by the end of the year.

Sales at Giant Online have more than tripled weekly since its launch and it now has about 2,200 customers. It offers more than 8,000 items, including fresh produce, groceries, electrical appliances and apparel.

At FairPrice Online, sales have grown by 30 per cent while its subscriber base has risen by more than 30 per cent to 100,000 accounts over the past year.

Similarly, at Prime Supermarket's online store, sales have doubled and the number of customers has grown by up to 50 per cent over the same period.

"Online shopping is available throughout the day and purchasing groceries will not be constrained by store operating hours," said a spokesman for Dairy Farm, which runs Giant and Cold Storage.

While there are no transaction charges imposed on grocery shopping at these online stores, customers have to pay delivery charges depending on the amount purchased.

At Giant Online, for example, customers pay a delivery fee of $12 for orders below $60 and $7 for orders that are $60 and above.

Popular items purchased online include mineral water, beverages and baby diapers.

Supermarkets are also offering more items for customers to add to their online carts. Both Cold Storage and FairPrice said they have increased their product range by 15 per cent this year.

FairPrice is looking to add organic and fresh produce to its online selection, due to an increase in demand for such products.

Online grocery store RedMart said that Singaporeans now account for 70 per cent of its customer base, up from 40 per cent a year ago.

Its vice-president for marketing Todd Kurie said there is plenty of room for further growth in online grocery shopping.

He estimated that in London, around 15 per cent of grocery shopping is done online, compared with around 1 per cent to 2 per cent in Singapore.

Mrs Winnie Lee, 38, shops at RedMart two to three times a month, and spends up to $200 each time on products such as household items and milk formula for her two young children.

"I like the fact that I don't have to squeeze with the crowds or navigate through the supermarket alleys with a trolley," said the educator, who also runs a parenting blog.

Mr Amos Tan, a marketing and retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said he expects online grocery shopping to become even more popular.

"A lot of Singaporeans are busy and online shopping definitely brings a lot of convenience. And when you're shopping for necessities, you don't need to touch them before buying to know what to expect."

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