Buy now, collect later? It's possible with Funan's robotic arm

A robot-controlled collection point will allow customers to retrieve their purchases from the mall at any time. The 24-hour service will be trialled with GamePro Shop, Alan Photo and T K Foto in the first quarter of next year. (From left) Funan centr
(From left) Funan centre manager Augustine Ow, CapitaLand chairman Ng Kee Choe, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, CapitaLand Mall Trust chairman Teo Swee Lian and CapitaLand Mall Trust chief executive officer Tony Tan at the official opening ceremony of Funan yesterday.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
A robot-controlled collection point will allow customers to retrieve their purchases from the mall at any time. The 24-hour service will be trialled with GamePro Shop, Alan Photo and T K Foto in the first quarter of next year. (From left) Funan centr
A robot-controlled collection point will allow customers to retrieve their purchases from the mall at any time. The 24-hour service will be trialled with GamePro Shop, Alan Photo and T K Foto in the first quarter of next year.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Free trial service comes as malls seek to help physical stores compete with e-commerce

Shoppers who are sick of carrying their haul around with them will soon be able to find comfort through Funan's latest technological installation - a robot-controlled collection point.

Customers at any of the three shops in the trial - gaming store GamePro Shop, Alan Photo and T K Foto - can opt for the service and get a one-time password when they make purchases.

The shops will leave their items at the collection point at Basement 2.

When shoppers want to retrieve their goods later, they enter the password at the collection point and a robotic arm will pick up the items and deposit them through a window.

The trial service is free and will start in the first quarter next year. It will operate 24 hours a day so customers can pick up their shopping any time, even when the shops have closed.

The trial comes as malls seek to offer a solution to the growth of e-commerce that has threatened the relevance of physical stores. It is not clear if the collection service will be extended to purchases made on the three shops' online sites.

Alan Photo operation manager John Chong said: "Currently our online store is not linked to the physical stores, but once that is set up we would definitely be open to customers buying online and then collecting from the collection point."

He added that the trial would be "very beneficial to customers who buy something but are not going straight home or are very busy because they can come collect at any time".

The trial was announced yesterday at the official opening of Funan, which was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

 
 

Since it opened its doors to shoppers on June 28, large e-commerce heavyweights such as Taobao, clothing retailer Love, Bonito and, most recently, Lazada have opened physical stores in Funan.

Alan Photo opened in 1986 at Sim Lim Square and expanded to Funan DigitaLife Mall in 2006. It is one of the stores that remained after the mall's three-year, $560 million transformation.

Mr Chong said: "The market is definitely different and less focused; even the name used to have 'IT' (the mall was named Funan The IT Mall between 1997 and 2005).

"We see a lot more women and younger people but we just have to cater to a different market like young couples," he added.

The once tech-centric mall now has a more chic lifestyle vibe, very different from its former incarnation.

Average monthly foot traffic has increased by about 70 per cent since the renovation compared with 2015 levels, CapitaLand and CapitaLand Mall Trust said yesterday, although exact figures were not available.

 
 

The mall houses more than 200 brands - 60 per cent are home-grown - with the retail and office spaces "close to full".

CapitaLand Mall Trust chairman Teo Swee Lian said at the official opening: "It is now a vibrant integrated development. It is not just a mall but a space for discovery, learning and shopping, underpinned by a digital layer of customer experience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2019, with the headline 'Buy now, collect later? It's possible with Funan's robotic arm'. Print Edition | Subscribe