Prime Group: Stockpiling, shortages test supermarket’s reflexes

LIKE most Singapore supermarket operators, Prime Group’s sales jumped by 15 to 25 per cent as people stockpiled groceries and necessities at the peak of the pandemic last year. 

Group chief executive Tan Yong Shao said the company found itself being put through “a series of maximum-stress tests”, such as ensuring the safety of its frontline staff with the surges in short-term demand creating a huge pressure on its supermarket operations.

Critical decisions, such as whether to keep the 24-hour outlets open or to close them due to manpower shortages, had to be made quickly, with “very real impact to operations and general perceptions”, he added. 

The group leveraged its good relationships with distributors and the local wholesale market to ensure Prime supermarkets would not have to limit customers’ purchases. 

Its aquaculture segment, which was started in 2018 and produces more than 60 tonnes of fish monthly, boosted supply to the supermarkets and wholesale market.

Prime also set up a group-buying platform, Combine.SG, when it realised that last-mile deliveries were costly for both retailers and consumers. So far, it has been “pleasantly surprised by the promising results”.

Meanwhile, Mahota Commune, the group’s retail and lifestyle concept, had to suspend most of its activities and events, save for food and beverages. 

Mahota’s F&B team adapted to target new segments, developing meals that could be heated up at home and setting up a delivery-only patisserie outfit. As a result, the company’s overall takings were 20 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels. 

In 2021, “we are definitely very optimistic as we have been spending a lot of time and energy in fine-tuning our menu and in new product development,” said Mr Tan.

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