SINGAPORE - Fancy a gardening kit, hot meal or even a headscarf at the press of a button? Supermarket chain Giant has joined the vending machine wave with what it touts as the largest and most diverse cluster of vending machines in Singapore.
The group of 17 machines, called VendMart, will be exhibited at the entrance of Giant hypermarket in Tampines, with another five at its IMM outlet in Jurong from now until Dec 31.
Among its offering of food, toys, beauty and lifestyle products are fish food, halal Islamic-related products, men's grooming products by online store SGPomades, and food and snacks by the likes of Mr Popiah, No Signboard Seafood and Shiok Pizza.
Giant also created its own "mystery box" vending machine, where $10 will get you a surprise item worth a higher value, from Giant vouchers to household appliances and kitchen gadgets. The mystery boxes at both VendMart locations also house an iPhone 8 each.
Speaking to The Straits Times at a media preview at the Tampines VendMart on Wednesday (Oct 11), Giant's marketing director Lim Wee Ling said that VendMart is part of its efforts to refresh the hypermarket concept.
"A hypermarket is not just a big format supermarket... You need to give people more than just shopping - it's about fun, so we are focusing on retailtainment," said Ms Lim.
Many of the brands are local start-ups, and help to complement the offerings in-store, she added. VendMart will have a trial period of three months, which may be extended to Chinese New Year if response is positive.
One of the more unique machines at VendMart dispenses halal Islamic-related products by local companies, such as tea, essential oil, headscarves and clothing.
Ms Amanda Aida Atan, founder of Vibes Mastery, an academy and consultancy for budding entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises, said vending machines help to boost visibility for e-commerce retailers while helping them to scale at a low cost.
Her machine dispenses products that are halal-certified, including headscarves and clothing by local designers and brands, she said.
"All the products come with nice packaging and bags. Even if you are not Muslim, they make nice gifts for Muslim friends," said Ms Amanda, who has plans to launch more machines in the Orchard Road area.
Marketing analyst Janson Leong helped to turn his parents' love of gardening into a vending machine business with Farmily, which dispenses DIY gardening kits for plants such as lavender, basil and chilli, and makes its debut at VendMart.
"We wanted to make vending accessible to everyone... My parents are semi-retired and I have a full-time job, so this is a good format for us," said Mr Leong, 28.
Each kit, priced at $12, comes with plant seeds, a packet of soil and a small biodegradable pot made of plant fibre that can be planted in a larger pot.
Beyond launching more machines, Farmily is also working on an e-commerce site and is exploring the sale of these plants as corporate gifts, said Mr Leong.
Mr Alvin Lim, owner of online store SGPomades, launched his first vending machine at VendMart with the website's top-selling pomades and other grooming products for men.
"Delivery sometimes cannot meet demand, and with vending machines, some locations allow you to buy 24/7," he said.
Three more machines will be launched at AMK Hub, White Sands and Chinatown Point on Friday, and there are talks for another machine to be launched in the western part of Singapore, said Mr Lim.
The launch of VendMart comes as more businesses are turning to vending machines to beat high manpower and rental costs. Enterprise development agency Spring Singapore is working with retailers and food and beverage operators to adopt such formats.