Making Every Good Count

NTUC FairPrice embraces technology to boost productivity in stores

Published on
03 June 2011
  • FairPrice to introduce Self Checkout counters and Electronic Shelf-Labelling in more stores by March 2012
  • Survey reveals customers find Self Checkout counters fast and effective

NTUC FairPrice (FairPrice) today showcased new retailing technologies installed at the FairPrice Finest outlet in Clementi Mall to boost productivity, heeding the government’s call for the retail sector to be more productive in order to stay competitive. The new systems, which include the latest model of Self Checkout counters and an Electronic Shelf Labelling system, were introduced and tested in the store earlier this year. Following the success of this pilot, FairPrice also announced that it will implement the Self Checkout system in eight stores and the Electronic Shelf Labelling system in two stores by the end of this financial year.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, CEO (Singapore), NTUC FairPrice said, “Aligned with the national call to stay competitive by raising productivity, we have constantly looked for innovative ways to alleviate industry-wide retail challenges such as a shortage of manpower as well as ways to enhance customers’ in-store shopping experience. We see technology as a catalyst to drive higher productivity in the areas of process, people and service in the stores. The results and success of this pilot scheme has given us the confidence to extend these to more stores.”

Productivity Brings Benefits for All

The new technologies bring a range of benefits to the organisation, employees and customers. For FairPrice, improved productivity enables it to better deploy resources and up service levels as manpower is optimised and staff can focus on serving customers.

The four Self Checkout counters at FairPrice Finest Clementi Mall enable customers with a basket load of groceries to conveniently scan their purchases, pack the items and make payment seamlessly at one go. One service staff is required to man four Self Checkout counters compared to using four cashiers for four conventional point of sale machines, thus optimising manpower.

For customers, the Self Checkout system provides more convenience with faster and more efficient service. The additional Self Checkout counters increase the number of payment counters at the store. This means shorter customer waiting times in queues.

For employees, the new technology means their roles are redefined to be more service-oriented and customer-focused. Training is provided to employees who will man the Self Checkout counters and an additional monthly allowance is given to encourage them to shift from a purely operational job to one that is service-oriented. By the end of this financial year, FairPrice plans to train over 50 staff as Self Checkout system supervisors.

Noorlina Binte Abubakar, who supervises the Self Checkout counters at the store, said, “With this system, customers with smaller purchases can just scan and pay for their items quickly, instead of standing in the queue just to pay for a few items. Now I can focus on helping my customers and interact with them. I believe this will help to keep our customers happy and satisfied.”

Electronic Shelf Labelling System

The Electronic Shelf Labelling system transmits price updates to over 15,000 shelf tags automatically at the FairPrice Finest store in Clementi Mall. This replaces the conventional process of downloading the prices from the centralised system, printing them onto price labels which are then manually slotted onto the shelves, and making sure that the correct labels are tagged to the right products. Prices need to be updated regularly and FairPrice also has weekly and monthly promotions where labels need to be updated. With electronic shelf labelling, the electronic labels are automatically updated from the centralised pricing system. This saves the store at least 50 man hours per month, enabling staff to spend more time on housekeeping, ensuring that stocks are replenished on the shelves, and attending to customers as well.

With the Electronic Shelf Labelling system, FairPrice can eliminate human error in the process of shelf price labelling and achieve a high level of accuracy of prices displayed on the shelves, which will eventually lead to higher customer satisfaction level.

Customers Receptive to New Technology

To better understand customer response to the latest Self Checkout system and allow for further fine tuning before extending it to other stores, FairPrice conducted a survey of close to 600 customers who patronised the FairPrice Finest store at Clementi Mall.

The findings revealed that almost all customers (99.4%) who used the system were satisfied. Top positive feedback included ease of scanning of items bought, ease of payment and quick response time of the machine.

83.5% of the respondents said it was an effective and fast alternative to pay for items. 99.3% of the respondents say they are very likely or likely to continue to use the system. 85.4% of respondents would also like to see the system implemented at other FairPrice stores.

Commenting on the survey, Mr Seah said, “The survey has given us the confidence that customers are receptive to the new technology as it meets their needs and increases convenience. It also reinforces the decision to have a Self Checkout counter attendant to assist them. As we continue to innovate to tackle productivity challenges in the retail industry, we will continue to listen to feedback to ensure plans implemented will also enhance customers’ shopping experience at our stores.”

Amongst the customers who did not use the Self Checkout counters to make their purchases, half (45.8%) said they will try the system if the cashier queue is long while one in three respondents (31.5%) said they are willing to try the system if there is a retail attendant to help them.

The top reasons for not using the system were because they were concerned that they may not do it correctly (38.0%), they prefer to pay by cash (24.7%), and that they were not aware of this service (19.2%).

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