15. Robbed at Gunpoint

Photo To be robbed at gunpoint is almost unheard of in Singapore. But such an incident happened at FairPrice’s Sun Plaza outlet in 2006. Source: iStock.com/Jiggo_thekop

One minute she was going about her job as per normal, the next moment she was staring down the barrel of a gun.

Madam Poh was closing the 4D and Toto cashier at the FairPrice outlet in Sun Plaza when a man wearing a mask pointed a gun at her, and demanded the bag of money in her hands. “The robber had a stocking over his head. I couldn’t get a good look at his face but he looked horrifying. For a second, I was completely stunned,” she recalled of that fateful February day in 2006.

It was just like in the movies, except this was real life – a shocking encounter at the supermarket where theft was not rampant. To be robbed at gunpoint was even more rare. The gunman, later identified as a 59-year-old unemployed Chinese man, used that moment of surprise to snatch the bag containing $3,000 and ran. It was then that Madam Poh collected herself and screamed in Mandarin: “Robbery!”

By then, the robber was bolting into the shopping centre’s carpark, with a security guard close on his heels. Noticing that the guard was catching up with him, he panicked and fired his nine millimetre Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol. Fortunately, he missed, hit the stairs and hurt no one.

“I could only see the flash (of the gunshot), but it only made me more angry,” said the security officer, Mr Rojion Bin Shari. The commotion caught the attention of a passerby, who joined the pursuit. Together with Mr Rojion, they managed to apprehend the armed robber and waited for the police to arrive.

It was an amazing chase that ended well – with Madam Poh retrieving the bag of money, and everyone was safe and sound. Except for the robber who faced jail 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.