Some stallholders tapping tech to draw customers

Freshly made yong tau foo, the day's catch and meat butchered to order are among the draws of shopping at wet markets.

But with fewer people making the morning trip to them, sellers at one of Singapore's oldest wet markets have found a way to take their produce to the customer.

E-commerce site MarketFresh, launched last year, is the brainchild of fishmonger Khor Chin Puang.

On its website, customers can order wet market produce from more than 10 stalls at Tiong Bahru Market for delivery the next day.

It did not take much convincing from Mr Khor, who owns the Pan's Fish stall and grew up helping his mother at her seafood stall in the 67-year-old market, to get others on board.

"Wet markets are stagnant. Last time, the mindset was that you want to see the fresh fish or pork before you buy. Nowadays people don't, that's why online is growing," said Mr Khor, 35, who added that he has seen a steady single-digit percentage drop in sales each year over the past few years.

The businesses, which include hawkers of fresh meat, vegetables and yong tau foo, said the platform has helped to boost their sales by up to 20 per cent.

Mr Khor is among several innovative wet market stallholders finding new ways to draw customers.

Four times a week at the Geylang Serai market, Ms Christina Tan positions a smartphone over the ice bed of her parents' fish stall and turns on Facebook's live streaming function.

 

Since last November, she has been conducting live auctions of the day's catch, handpicked from the Jurong and Senoko fishery ports, on her Facebook page Firstonlineseafoodbidding.

During the two-to three-hour sales period, Ms Tan, 28, places seafood in front of the camera and interacts with customers while bidders name their price in the comments. Successful bidders get their products delivered on the same day.

The aim is to bring convenience to those who may not have the time or ability to visit the market, she said.

At the Chinatown Market at Chinatown Complex, one stall in the basement stands out from the rest.

"Anthony The Spice Maker" is spelt out on a wooden signboard, and on display at the brightly lit stall are rows of spice packets, recipes for local favourites like laksa and sambal stingray, and a television set playing sharply produced cooking demonstrations.

Founder Anthony Leow makes his own spice mixes and pastes at the 10-year-old stall, and decided in recent years to create an online presence.

The brand now has social media accounts and an e-commerce site, while QR codes on the spice packets can be scanned to access video tutorials on how to turn the spice mixes into a paste or a hearty curry dish.

"I wanted to share my recipes and help customers better understand how to use our products," said Mr Leow, 58.

About 40 per cent of sales are now online, with customers in countries such as Australia and the United States.

Wet market businesses have to keep up with the times to continue drawing customers, he said.

MarketFresh's Mr Khor sees potential for a wet market revival.

"Ten years ago, no one wanted to be a hawker, but now becoming a hawker is so hip. Maybe one day it will be like that for wet markets," he said. For a start, he is trying to bring wagyu beef and other "exciting" new products to Tiong Bahru Market. But his application for a stall selling cheese and deli meats was rejected, as National Environment Agency rules do not allow for the sale of different categories of items, such as pork and eggs, in the same stall.

"Maybe certain rules and mindsets have to change for there to be a resurgence. There are pockets of us trying to make wet markets more modern, but there's no momentum yet," said Mr Khor.