11. Cheers to Convenience

Photo: From 2005, 77 Esso and Mobil stations across Singapore welcomed either a Cheers or FairPrice Xpress store. Source: Samuel He

By the mid-1990s, Singapore had transformed into a bustling city-state, complete with trendy professionals who were always on the go. FairPrice spotted a new business opportunity: convenience retail.

In 1998, the first Cheers store opened in Nanyang Polytechnic – its bright, trademark yellow interior featuring everything from international snacks to prepaid SIM cards. But growth was slow in the early years as some stores – located in fairly secluded places such as Bukit Batok and Pasir Ris then – were less successful. Then a mammoth partnership changed the game, when the world’s largest petroleum company partnered Singapore’s largest supermarket chain.

In 2003, ExxonMobil inked an agreement with NTUC FairPrice to set up Cheers stores at six of its Esso petrol stations. A convenience store in a petrol kiosk? It was an unfamiliar concept in Singapore then. But the novel idea proved a hit with consumers, and the scheme took off. It was a breakthrough moment for Cheers, which instantly more than doubled its network. From 2005, 77 Esso and Mobil stations across Singapore welcomed either a Cheers or FairPrice Xpress store.

FairPrice Xpress was larger than a typical convenience store, selling everything from fresh produce to health products. It was a one-stop wonder for busy Singaporeans who, on their way home from work, could stop by a petrol station to get their cars – and home supplies – refilled.

Over 170 Cheers and FairPrice Xpress stores dot the island today, with new products constantly introduced to consumers such as the popular ready-to-eat meals.

Since its humble beginnings in a corner of Toa Payoh, NTUC FairPrice has become the quintessential Singaporean supermarket. The leap from a single store to a grocery giant is a tale of retail reinvention – a half-century journey that saw the cooperative confront crises and challenges, revamps and even robbers.

As it expanded and evolved, FairPrice never wavered from its core mission: to moderate the cost of living for consumers. It Takes a Great Deal - A Catalogue of FairPrice Group Stories encapsulates the birth of the consumer cooperative in 1973 and its transformation into a $4 billion food enterprise that is now called FairPrice Group.

Through 50 remarkable stories, we celebrate the people, products and places that mark significant milestones for the food retailer over the last five decades, charting its growth and successes in the past, present and into the future.