SINGAPORE: The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted many businesses in Singapore - from retail to food establishments. But delivery services are seeing a bump in sales as more people work at home as part of business continuity plans or stay indoors due to concerns over the coronavirus.
When the Government moved the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from Yellow to Orange on Feb 7, the Health Ministry urged firms to “step up” their business continuity plan, with suggestions that employees could telecommute or be divided into separate teams.
This led to some businesses – including those in the transport and tourism sectors, as well as retail outlets in the Central Business District – reporting lower sales as a result.
Delivery firms however are bucking the trend, with some saying more are now using their services.
E-commerce platform Lazada said it experienced a spike in bulk buying and large orders through its grocery service RedMart when the DORSCON level was changed to Orange.
“Orders exceeded 300 per cent of RedMart’s weekly average and we are currently seeing unprecedented demand,” said a Lazada spokesperson.
Shoppers are spending up to 10 times more on food staples, and up to five times more on paper products and up to six times more on personal care and household cleaning supplies, she said.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and work to ensure that we are able to fulfill customer needs.”
“The demand for online orders has surged beyond that for Lunar New Year period, and our daily delivery slots are running at almost full capacity since DORSCON Orange was declared two Fridays ago,” said a spokesperson for NTUC FairPrice.
While traffic is off its peak, it is still higher than normal, said the supermarket giant.
“We continue to clear a backlog of deliveries during this challenging time and have invested additional resources and funds to increase our delivery capacity. These slots were also quickly utilised and we expect the next delivery slot to be available later this month.”
Among the more popular items being purchased from FairPrice are baby milk powder, rice, soft drinks, disinfectants and paper products.
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Both Grab and Deliveroo said they had each seen a 20 per cent increase in food orders in recent weeks.
The higher demand is not putting a strain on Deliveroo's resources however, with the firm noting its rider supply planning team uses data analytics to ensure an adequate number of riders on the road.
Foodpanda meanwhile said it has seen a 10 per cent week-on-week increase in order across its various food and grocery delivery platforms.
All three firms said that beyond the coronavirus, other factors such as marketing campaigns and restaurant promotions could also have contributed to the increase.
PROTECTING DELIVERY WORKERS
Companies said they have guidelines in place to protect their delivery workers from the virus, which spreads through contact.
Lazada for example ensures logistics staff undergo daily temperature checks and sanitization before they handle packages, adding RedMart delivery riders also “strictly adhere to hygiene protocols before and after each delivery”.
“To minimize physical contact with our riders and their devices, it is no longer mandatory for customers to physically sign on our devices as proof of delivery,” said a Lazada spokesperson.
“Instead, with the customer’s consent, our riders will sign on the customer’s behalf in their presence.”
Fairprice noted all staff, including delivery drivers, undergo temperature checks twice daily, adding it has a “pandemic readiness and action plan with comprehensive precautionary measures to protect the health of our employees and customers”.
The authorities announced earlier this month that food delivery riders placed under quarantine would get a S$100 daily allowance during the 14 days that they are unable to work.
In addition, such riders who are members of the Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) are eligible for a one-off allowance of S$200.
Grab also said its delivery riders would get a one-off amount of between S$100 and S$200 should they be quarantined or hospitalised during this time.
Deliveroo also said it would provide riders who are quarantined or hospitalised during this time a one-off allowance of S$100.
The company told CNA it shares “official guidance and regular updates” on the coronavirus situation with riders, and offers riders masks which can be collected at its three Deliveroo Editions central kitchens.
Foodpanda said it is “actively encouraging” our customers to use online payment methods instead of cash on delivery (COD) for orders.
“If a rider receives a COD order, we have also issued guidelines to use hand sanitizer immediately after handling cash,” said the delivery firm, adding it provides riders with free face masks and hand sanitisers.