9. Not the Statue, but the Supermarket of Liberty

Photo: The first Liberty Market, spanning over 25,000 sq ft, was opened in Plaza Singapura in December 1998. Source: FairPrice Group

America came to FairPrice in 1998. Welcome to Liberty Market, the All-American concept store that resembled typical supermarkets found in the United States (US) like Walmart and Costco.

There was free popcorn for customers queuing to pay for their shopping, a no-questions-asked exchange and refund policy, and even a replica of the iconic Statue of Liberty overlooking rows of shelves stocked with American items such as soft drink Dr Pepper and Post Oreo Cereal.

Besides catering to the sizeable number of American expatriates living in Singapore, Liberty Market was also the answer to a local customer base whose tastes were becoming increasingly international.

The first Liberty Market, spanning over 25,000 sq ft, opened in Plaza Singapura. Built at a cost of $2 million, around 65 per cent of its goods were made in America, with the US Department of Agriculture and the US Embassy providing support when it came to procurement.

Liberty soon made its way to the heartlands, with a second outlet opening in Jurong Point in 2000. However, this US-themed grocery store did not last. After a period of time, business was not as brisk.

“There was demand, but not enough,” noted former Group Chief Executive Officer of FairPrice Group, Mr Seah Kian Peng. Both branches eventually closed their doors.

But it had left a legacy. Liberty Market would be the predecessor of today’s more upmarket supermarket, FairPrice Finest. “Version 1 of Finest,” as Mr Seah would describe it.

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.