50. Faces of FairPrice Group: The People Behind the Success

Photo: Ms Koe Wan Gek (left) and Ms Angel Ler have worked at FairPrice for 49 years and 25 years respectively as of 2023. Source: Samuel He

FairPrice Group would not be what it is today without its 13,350 employees, the heart and soul of the organisation who play a vital role in its success. As many as one in three are long-serving staff who have worked with the retailer for more than a decade – experiencing first-hand its evolution over the years.

Among them is Ms Koe Wan Gek, who has been with FairPrice for 49 years as of 2023. There are only nine other employees who have worked longer than her. Ms Koe joined in 1974, when she was just 16 years old. She had to drop out of secondary school to find a job to support her family, and remains grateful for the opportunity. “The company accepts me and provides me with opportunities, rewards and incentives for my progress,” shared the 65-year-old.

Her first job was with the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (SILO) supermarket that was merged with NTUC Welcome to form NTUC FairPrice in 1983. She started as a retail assistant and is now a senior supervisor at Thomson Plaza’s FairPrice Finest.

Another long-serving employee is Ms Angel Ler, who has also literally grown up with the organisation. She joined FairPrice when she was just 16 in 1998 as a cashier. Today,
the 41-year-old is a team lead in FairPrice’s Fulfilment from Store operations for online orders. Ms Ler, who made the switch from the retail to digital side of the business, enjoys the “constant new challenges and opportunities” of working at FairPrice. “ My team keeps me motivated. It’s not just about myself,” she said. “I try to build rapport with the team. Those who can, will work with you for a long time.”

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.