Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest updates from Singapore

Date : 19 May 2020

Soo-Eng Tan

Senior Retail Analyst

Following the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) three months ago, retailers in Singapore have responded with urgency and empathy as the situation evolves - we will continue to update this article with the latest developments...

Dairy Farm Group hires staff from hotels

More than 150 from seven hotels have been redeployed to Cold Storage, Giant and Guardian stores under the Dairy Farm Group. They are working in roles such as cashiers, sales assistants and retail assistants for one to three months. The Group has been impacted by the movement control order in Malaysia as more than 500 Malaysian staff members have not been able to return to work in Singapore.

Some businesses to resume from 12 May

As number of community cases are falling, home based food businesses, selected food retail outlets, food manufacturing firms, hairdressers and pet supplies stores can open from 12 May. Food retail which sells cakes, confectionary, packaged snacks and desserts may be open for takeaway and delivery only. Safe distancing measures continue to apply. Retailers must implement contactless delivery and pick up measures. Some students will go back to school on 19 May in small groups. However, this is focused on students who from graduating cohorts and will be preparing for national exams.

Singapore extends "circuit breaker" period

The government has decided to extend the lockdown period by another 4 weeks till 1 June. The intial period was for four weeks starting 7 April. More businesses will be closed to bring down the number of new infections in the community. For example, standalone cakes, dessert and beverages stores will be closed for at least two weeks. Hairdressers and barbers who were previously allowed to give hair cuts will also be closed under the tighter restrictions. All supermarkets and malls will have to conduct temperature screenings and shoppers at selected supermarkets will have to provide their particulars for contact tracing. Four busy wet markets are allowing wet markets based on the shoppers' identification card numbers as enforced by the government. Those whose last digit on their IC is an even number may only visit these markets on the even dates of the month, while those whose last digit is an odd number may only visit these markets on the odd dates of the month.  

More online grocery slots for shoppers

  • FairPrice had been investing heavily to upgrade its online grocery infrastructure in the last two months. It hired 150 members to become trained packers and pickers. The retailer is adding a service fee of SGD3.99 (US$2.80) to subsidize the cost of cold chain management, transportation of bulk goods, manpower, food safety and quality measures. Delivery is free for purchases above SGD79 (US$55.50). A multi-tiered delivery fee ranging from SGD3.00 (US$2.10) to SGD5.00 (US$3.50) will be imposed for purchase below SGD79.
  • HaoMart launched a new online service to provide essential goods. This includes rice, oil, canned food, beverages and medical masks. Delivery is free for spend above SGD300 (US$210).

Wearing a mask mandatory in all grocery stores

From 12 April, shoppers visiting grocery stores and wet market must wear a mask. This will be strictly enforced and shoppers without a mask will be turned away and directed to a counter to buy a mask where available. Shoppers who do not maintain a distance of 1meter from other shoppers will be given a fine.

Source: IGD Research


Singapore closes all non-essential services

Despite implementing safe distancing measures, the number of new COVID-19 infections in Singapore has been rising. On 4th April, the government has ordered all non-essential services to close from 7th April to 4th May. Major changes include the closure of pre-schools, student care centres and schools. Essential services include eateries, supermarkets, healthcare, government services, transport, utilities and key banking services: 

  • Hypermarkets, supermarkets, convenience stores, online grocery platforms and wet markets: remain open
  • Health and beauty stores: Watsons and Guardian will remain open but beauty-focused stores like Sephora will close
  • Food and beverage stores: all restaurants, cafes, food courts, fast food outlets and hawker stores can open for takeaway and delivery only. On-site dining is banned
  • Food delivery: food caterers and delivery remain open
  • Public transport, buses, taxis, private hire cars and key supporting transport services: remain open 

Improving efficiency for online

Lazada is closing its online store for two days to implement key changes: 

  • Reducing assortment: prioritise daily essentials such as rice, flour and eggs
  • Delivery slots assigned according to location: there will be specific days and time slots available for each address
  • Simplifying and reducing orders: orders are limited to 35 items and less than 100kg. Items cannot be added to order once placed
  • Contactless delivery: deliveries will be left at doorstep to minimise contact

Looking after vulnerable groups

  • Priority shopping hours: FairPrice and Cold Storage in Singapore have set up priority shopping hours for vulnerable groups. This is in the first operating hour of FairPrice stores’ every Monday and in the first operating hour of Cold Storage stores’ every Tuesday and Wednesday
  • Dedicated checkout counters: Cold Storage has designated checkout counters for these groups during normal operating hours. Healthcare workers and safety personnel will also have priority
  • Fundraising and donation: FairPrice Group has pledged to contribute up to SGD240,000 (US$167,000) to benefit the less privileged in collaboration with its strategic partners
  • Online priority access for healthcare workers: healthcare frontline staff at selected hospitals will be able to access priority slots with RedMart/Lazada at 10am daily. This is still a trial programme and the retailer will be providing a wider access over time.

Safe distancing measures

  • One metre between shoppers: all retail stores have marked out spaces in queue lines to ensure at least one metre between shoppers
  • Extra space rental: FairPrice and Sheng Siong have rented extra space outside their physical stores to sell high demand products 
  • Two-hourly updates with headquarters: store managers at FairPrice are updating their headquarters every two hours to provide information about crowd and inventory levels
Source: IGD Research

Managing high demand items

  • Purchase limits: retailers have placed purchased limits on high demand items like rice, noodles, tissue paper and vegetables. The demand for other goods has surged as the pandemic continues, so retailers have added canned food and eggs to the list
  • Delivery in pallets: to calm shoppers and create efficiency, retailers have arranged for whole pallets of products to be delivered to stores
  • Increase visibility: FairPrice, Cold Storage and ShengSiong have stocked high demand products near entrances to calm shoppers. FairPrice has also opened up their warehouse to show the media that there is a huge stockpile so the public does not need to worry about supply

Getting last mile delivery for online retailers

  • Private hire and taxi drivers: the increase in online shopping has caused a bottleneck in last mile delivery. In response to this, the government has added a measure to allow private hire and taxi drivers to deliver food and groceries from April to June
  • Increased hiring: all the key retailers are hiring more staff to support fulfilment and delivery of online orders.  

Improving hygiene standards

  • More regular cleaning: supermarkets have stepped up cleaning regimes, cleaning surfaces like railings, trolleys, baskets and checkout counters every four hours
  • Avoiding cross-contamination: hand sanitisers are available for customers to use near checkout counters

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