32. Fulfilling the Future of Digital Business

Photo: A FairPrice employee picking out items to fulfil onl ine orders. Source: Samuel He

When FairPrice Group fully converted its Orchid Country Club physical store into the chain’s first “dark store” in 2020, it was able to fulfil more online orders – 25 per cent more.

This dark store, a large distribution centre which is not open to the public but stores goods used to fulfil online orders, helped to improve delivery capacity. The move was necessary to serve a sudden spike in demand for essential items in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, as online orders grew – jumping 44 per cent from 2019 to 2020 – FairPrice shifted from dark stores to decentralised fulfilment centres called Fulfilment from Store. Instead of retrieving items from the dark store, online deliveries are now picked and packed from supermarkets. This allows FairPrice to fulfil orders within two hours, with the same variety and options. Decentralised fulfilment centres make more economic sense as a central warehouse has to operate at an extremely high capacity to be profitable and is cost-inefficient. With this in mind, the Orchid Country Club dark store was eventually closed in March 2023.

The Fulfilment from Store approach is prized for its adaptability, having been tried and tested during the pandemic. With its cost and logistical efficiency, the strategy could serve FairPrice well for years to come for tomorrow’s omnichannel future.

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.