Diverse cluster of vending machines at Giant

On trial in Tampines and Jurong, VendMart dispenses food, toys and lifestyle products

From gardening kits to headscarves, shoppers can now get their hands on more products at the touch of a screen. Supermarket chain Giant has joined the vending machine wave with what it says is the largest and most diverse cluster of machines in Singapore.

The group of 17 machines, called VendMart, will sit at the entrance of the Giant hypermarket in Tampines till Dec 31. Another five vending machines are at its IMM outlet in Jurong for the same period.

Among its offering of food, toys, beauty and lifestyle goods are fish food, halal 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 for $10, the machine will dispense a surprise item worth a higher value, such as Giant vouchers, household appliances and kitchen gadgets. The mystery box machines at both VendMart locations also house an iPhone 8 each.

Speaking to The Straits Times at a media preview at the Tampines VendMart yesterday, Giant's marketing director Lim Wee Ling said that VendMart is part of its efforts to refresh the hypermart concept.

"A hypermarket is not just a big-format supermarket... 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 but this may be extended to Chinese New Year and introduced to other outlets if the response is positive.

The launch of VendMart comes as more businesses are turning to vending machines to beat high manpower and rental costs.

Ms Amanda Aida Atan, founder of Vibes Mastery, an academy and consultancy for budding entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises, said that vending machines help to boost visibility for e-commerce retailers while helping them to expand at a low cost.

Her machine at VendMart sells items that are halal-certified, including tea, and clothing, such as headscarves, by local designers and brands, she said.

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 gardening 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.

"We can track the inventory from home using an app, rather than man a store," he said.