SINGAPORE: From chilli crab to gardening tools, shoppers can now get their hands on a variety of items dispensed from vending machines at Giant’s hypermarket stores in IMM Jurong and Tampines.
Called VendMart, the group of five machines at IMM Jurong and 17 machines at Tampines, will be in place till the end of the year.
The initiative is a result of a partnership between Giant and several startups and businesses, and was launched in order to offer customers a wider shopping experience, Giant said at a media preview on Wednesday (Oct 11).
Besides the usual ready-to-eat hot meals and sandwiches, the VendMart machines also offer items such as toys, halal beauty products, men’s grooming products and pet food.
Prices range from S$0.80 to S$79.90.
Giant has plans to increase the number of vending machines to 50, its marketing director Lim Wee Ling said. It is also exploring expansion to its hypermarkets at Suntec City and VivoCity, depending on customer response and space requirements.
"WE SELL CONVENIENCE"
One of the vendors is restaurant chain House of Seafood, whose vending machine can dish out ready-to-eat chilli, black pepper and salted egg yolk crab. Its first vending machine was set up outside its restaurant at Punggol Settlement six months ago.
Since then, it has seen its sales increase by 20 per cent - with 10 to 20 crabs being sold on average every night after its operating hours, said CEO Francis Ng.
"We sell convenience - people come in, they know where to find food after operating hours," said Mr Ng. "We face a tight labour shortage, so we can’t find manpower. So I think this vending machine can help us solve labour shortage … it's more scalable, we don't have to open a restaurant (to sell them)."
Out of the 17 vending machines, six are operated by vending machine provider SmartRetail, which set up in Singapore last December.
The business, which was founded in Hong Kong, rents out vending machines to clients for S$300 to $500 a month, its general manager Kevin Williams said.
Its system makes use of real-time sales and inventory tracking, and a cloud management system to keep track of its sales and stocks. So far it has more than 20 clients, many of which are small businesses.
"I think the market potential is quite exponential in Singapore, especially as the retail space is becoming more limited, but also the rental cost of the retail space is also increasing," Mr Williams said.
"So a lot of small business owners are coming to us and asking us, hey we’re really interested in selling our products in an unmanned business situation, but also to limit our manpower and to reduce the overall cost."
Mr Williams added that the market for vending machines is growing, with customised vending machines gaining in popularity.
"Each client has a different unique product set, so a lot of them are coming to us and requiring a little bit of a different twist," he said. "But the end goal is to get across the point of what they're looking to sell and the uniqueness of their individual products."
One of these start-ups that is stocking its items in a vending machine is online retailer SGPomades, which sells men's grooming items such as hair wax and beard oil.
Its vending machine sells more than 40 of its online bestsellers. Its owner Alvin Lim said that it decided to set up a vending machine to "create awareness" and to "be closer to customers", who can buy products on the spot without the fuss of delivery.
"We chose to set up our vending machine here (at Giant Tampines) because of the free carpark and the crowd here," he added.