On sale at Singapore’s largest vending machine cluster: Chilli crab, popiah and seedlings

Patrons can buy chili crab and tudungs from vending machines at Giant Hypermarket Tampines. — TODAY pic
Patrons can buy chili crab and tudungs from vending machines at Giant Hypermarket Tampines. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Oct 12 — Seedlings, chilli crab and tudungs are some items that patrons of Giant Hypermarket Tampines can now buy from vending machines.

VendMart, touted as Singapore’s largest vending machine cluster, opened to the public yesterday with 17 vending machines dispensing items as diverse as popiah, fish food and hair products.

Five of the machines are also available in Giant’s IMM outlet, including a Giant Mystery Box machine that will issue a slip of paper redeemable for a mystery item — such as a kitchen appliance or an electronic gadget — worth more than the S$10 (RM32) a customer puts in.

With the exception of items from the Mystery Box machine, the goods sold by the vending machines are not found on Giant supermarkets’ shelves.

VendMart’s aim is to offer shoppers a fun retail experience, said Giant Singapore’s marketing director Lim Wee Ling.

“Vending machines are a trend that’s been sweeping the world by storm and we saw an opportunity to elevate it (to) a scale that customers have not experienced before,” said Giant chief executive Ruald Swart.

The vending machines will be available at the Giant outlets until December, and may continue beyond that if the response is good. They may also be introduced at Giant’s Suntec and VivoCity outlets.

Vendors pay a “nominal fee” — which they declined to disclose due to contractual agreements — for the placement of their vending machines. The space occupied by VendMart at Giant Tampines, which is beside the escalator, was previously only used for marketing campaigns.

Besides appealing to “very niche shoppers” such as people who rear fish, VendMart also provides a platform for start-ups, which may lack the resources to distribute their products here, said Ms Lim.

For seedlings and gardening supplies firm Farmily, the vending machine at Giant Tampines is its first and only retail channel. Each gardening kit consisting of an eco-pot, soil and the seeds of plants such as chilli, basil or morning glory costs S$12.

The firm was started by semi-retired couple Teoh Maw Eng, 64, and William Leong, 67, who have been growing plants in their public housing estate for almost a decade. “They didn’t want to invest so much capital and didn’t want a shopfront, and they don’t want to exert so much energy, so this is a very good channel for them,” said their son Janson, 28.

The younger Leong, who works in a chemical company, said his parents are also able to track the inventory from home.

Another vendor, Amanda Aida Atan, who sells Islamic-related products such as tudungs, jubahs (a long, flowy robe) for babies and halal-certified tea, said a machine is less costly than a brick-and-mortar shop.

“Non-Muslims can buy gifts for their Muslim friends here too, if they aren’t sure where to go,” the 43-year-old entrepreneur added. — TODAY

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