Cashless supermarket to open in Pasir Panjang

ST VIDEO: CHARMAINE NG
Customers buying 10 or fewer items at the supermarket can use their smartphone to scan each item and pay using the Honestbee app. There will be more than 20,000 products, including fresh produce, seafood and meat on sale when the new Habitat by Hones
There will be more than 20,000 products, including fresh produce, seafood and meat on sale when the new Habitat by Honestbee supermarket opens tomorrow. Besides a fully automated checkout system, there are also 15 food stalls at the 60,000 sq ft retail space.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
When the customers are ready to leave, they scan their phone at a collection point (above) and robots will deliver the items to them.
To check out, customers push the cart into an automated system. The cart is sent to a backroom for the items to be scanned and packed for collection.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Customers buying 10 or fewer items at the supermarket can use their smartphone to scan each item and pay using the Honestbee app. There will be more than 20,000 products, including fresh produce, seafood and meat on sale when the new Habitat by Hones
When the customers are ready to leave, they scan their phone at a collection point (above) and robots will deliver the items to them.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Honestbee sets up physical store, which doubles as its online sales packing centre

A new supermarket in Pasir Panjang does not accept cash. And even if it did, there are no cashiers to accept it.

Shopping comes with a difference at Habitat by Honestbee supermarket - a 60,000 sq ft retail space with a fully automated checkout system where customers pay using a smartphone app and robots pack their groceries into bags.

The cashless store, the first of its kind in Singapore, is a rare move by a tech start-up into the bricks-and-mortar retail space.

Created by home-grown company Honestbee, it stocks 20,000 products, including fresh produce, seafood and meat.

It is due to open tomorrow at a time when the online grocery and food delivery market is becoming increasingly competitive here, with players such as RedMart and Amazon Prime, as well as Foodpanda, Deliveroo and GrabFood.

Honestbee, which was founded in 2015, started out as a grocery delivery service, but later introduced laundry and food delivery services.

The decision to move into the physical retail market was made because "online retail is less than 10 per cent of global retail sales", said Habitat by Honestbee vice-president and managing director Pauline Png. "We figured since we have the logistics capabilities and other expertise, we wanted to provide a new experience to our customers."

Customers buying 10 or fewer items at the supermarket can use their smartphone to scan each item and pay using the Honestbee app. There will be more than 20,000 products, including fresh produce, seafood and meat on sale when the new Habitat by Hones
There will be more than 20,000 products, including fresh produce, seafood and meat on sale when the new Habitat by Honestbee supermarket opens tomorrow. Besides a fully automated checkout system, there are also 15 food stalls at the 60,000 sq ft retail space. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The physical store also allows Honestbee and its partner merchants to experiment with new retail strategies and technologies, including the robotic checkout and collection point, she added.

It also serves as a fulfilment centre for Honestbee's online sales, where orders are packed and sent out for delivery.

The company is also exploring using data collected through the Honestbee app to customise the shopping experience for each customer, such as through recommendations.

To check out items at the store, customers place their grocery cart into an automated system, where it is sent behind the scenes for the items to be picked up, scanned and packed into a recyclable bag. The process takes about five minutes.


Customers buying 10 or fewer items at the supermarket can use their smartphone to scan each item and pay using the Honestbee app. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

When customers are ready to leave, they scan their unique QR code on the Honestbee app at a collection point. This will prompt the robots to deliver the bag of purchases to the customer.

According to Honestbee, this robotic checkout and collection system can handle 300 customer orders per hour.

Alternatively, customers buying 10 or fewer grocery items can use their smartphones to scan each item and pay using the Honestbee app. "By automating the checkout process, it frees them up from things like queueing... and they have an extra five or 10 minutes to maybe eat or get a coffee," said Ms Png.

Habitat by Honestbee also features 15 food stalls, where customers can have a meal while waiting for their groceries to be packed.

The stalls include Tokyo pancake cafe Riz Labo Kitchen, known for its Japanese souffle pancakes, and local bakery Lazy Loaf, which sells homemade breads and spreads.

Retail expert Amos Tan, a senior lecturer at the Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business, said Honestbee's move into the bricks-and-mortar retail space is understandable, as most consumers here still prefer to shop at grocery stores as a form of retail therapy.

"It's a whole new experience altogether when people's senses are engaged, where they get to touch, see, and sometimes even taste things," he said.

"So I guess Honestbee understands this, as their online market share is quite saturated and they want a bigger piece of the pie."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline 'Cashless supermarket to open in Pasir Panjang'. Print Edition | Subscribe