Singapore

Online grocers see spike in demand for food items, delivery slots

Tightened restrictions, closure of Jurong Fishery Port fuel orders at RedMart, FairPrice, Dairy Farm Group

With consumers hit by the double whammy of Jurong Fishery Port's closure and the latest tightened restrictions, online grocers have seen a spike in demand for food items and delivery slots.

Major players such as RedMart, FairPrice and the Dairy Farm Group, which operates supermarket chains Giant and Cold Storage, have seen increased orders since restrictions kicked in under phase two (heightened alert) last Thursday.

Jurong Fishery Port, which handles about 30 per cent of Singapore's seafood imports, including those that arrive by land and air, is closed till July 31, after the emergence of a Covid-19 cluster there.

As at yesterday, 792 cases have been linked to the cluster, the largest active one here.

The trickle-down effect of this cluster has seen more than 30 wet markets visited by infected cases, resulting in more shoppers opting to buy groceries online instead.

Last week, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu advised shoppers to widen their choices and sources of seafood to ease the effects of short-term disruptions on the Republic's chilled seafood supply.

Mr Richard Ruddy, chief retail officer and head of grocery at Lazada Singapore, which owns e-grocer RedMart, said: "We have been seeing an increase in demand over the last week, due to two events - the recent closure of Jurong Fishery Port, which has led to an increase in orders for fresh and frozen seafood and, in fact, in proteins overall, and the return to phase two (heightened alert)."

A Dairy Farm spokesman said it has seen demand for its online services double, with most delivery slots filled as soon as the fishery port cluster and tightened curbs were announced.

FairPrice saw online orders rise by 20 per cent to 30 per cent the day after the move to phase two (heightened alert) was announced last Tuesday.

A spokesman said demand "has since normalised", adding that there is no surge in demand for any particular products in online orders.

But at its physical stores in the past week, the major supermarket retailer has seen a 5 per cent to 20 per cent increase in overall demand for frozen food items such as processed chicken, chicken parts, scallops, prawns and fish fillets.

Over the weekend, long queues were seen at supermarkets islandwide as shoppers avoided the wet markets.

ENOUGH

All online grocers which The Straits Times spoke to have assured customers that there are enough stocks.

"We are ramping up our supplies in anticipation of elevated demand," said the FairPrice spokesman.

Mr Ruddy added: "We urge all customers to practise responsible shopping and buy only what they need, as there is sufficient stock for everyone."

Lessons from previous lockdowns have helped retailers plan better for changes in restrictions and customer demand.

Dairy Farm noted that demand usually "goes back to normal in the two to three weeks after restrictions are eased".

It has also built the capacity to handle the higher load more quickly, by activating recruitment and logistics partners pre-emptively.

Concurrently, food delivery services such as GrabFood, Foodpanda and Deliveroo have also seen a rise in demand, as dining in is banned again.

Food delivery services and merchants are also now better prepared when curbs are tightened.

To cope with the anticipated increase in orders, Foodpanda has opened more rider slots for each shift.

"This will help to increase the availability of riders for fulfilling delivery orders.

"We will also be increasing our rider recruitment efforts to ensure we have sufficient riders to cope with the demand," said a spokesman.

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Food & Drink