There are over 140 NTUC FairPrice stores around Singapore and many more if you include their convenience stores.
However, you will find their origins in the more uncertain days before the end of British rule, the break with Malaysia and independence for the island.
The National Trade Union Congress was founded in 1961 to represent the labour movement in Singapore. It was concern about rising food prices, inflation and profiteering hurting the working class that led to NTUC taking action in 1973 and opening in Toa Payoh the first NTUC Welcome Supermarket.
In the early days, the stores did not stock as many cosmopolitan products like cheeses, cereals and wine; as their main focus was to provide the daily essentials for Singaporeans. Through the years, FairPrice recognised the changing tastes of Singaporeans and gradually introduced new products into their stores.
During this time period, other labour organisations also set up similar supermarkets. In 1983, NTUC Welcome and Singapore Employees Co-operative merged to form NTUC FairPrice Co-operative Ltd. Many of FairPrice’s stores were located in matured housing estates to serve the needs of the ordinary Singaporean.
Just two years later, the company launched their own house brands to compete with the established international brands. While FairPrice housebrands only comprised essential items such as rice, oil or toilet paper, the range has now expanded to over 2,000 items, created to help Singaporeans moderate the cost of living.
To achieve increased productivity and to reduce costs, NTUC FairPrice invested in creating its own warehouse and distribution centre in 1998. In the same year, NTUC FairPrice launched its 24-hour convenience chain, Cheers, to offer round-the-clock shopping convenience to customers.
Five years later it became the first supermarket in Singapore to build, control and operate its own fresh-food distribution centre.
Now led by CEO, Seah Kian Peng, the company quickly expanded into new areas. A tie up with a major petrol company led to a new convenience store format – offering both convenience and grocery items – at petrol stations all over Singapore. FairPrice Xtra, the first hypermarket, was opened at Ang Mo Kio Hub at the end of 2006 and the following year an upmarket extension brand, FairPrice Finest, was opening at Bukit Timah Plaza. The company was getting ready to meet the needs of more affluent and well-traveled Singaporeans.
In 2008, Minster mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, unveiled a revamped logo for the brand. The new NTUC FairPrice logo is framed by the NTUC’s hallmark “U” which signifies the co-operative’s close relationship with the Labour Movement. At the heart of the logo are three ticks that define FairPrice’s long-standing brand promise to deliver quality products at best value and best service to customers.
The strong vibrant red represents the NTUC unity and brotherhood and NTUC FairPrice’s passion to serve its customers and the community. The solid blue represents the value of professionalism. Both red and blue combine to represent FairPrice’s core values of customer focus, teamwork and professionalism.
This was a time when NTUC FairPrice had to ensure it remained relevant in the digital age. FairPrice Online, the online shopping portal was launched in 2002. From a website, FairPrice Online has further expanded its presence to the mobile app and launched a revamped app in 2015 so shoppers could shop from anywhere.
In 2014, FairPrice launched Warehouse Club, which is Singapore’s first membership only retail warehouse for groceries and household consumables. The store offers quality products at the best value through large discounts with bulk buys, multi-packs, and exclusive brands for its customers.
To reaffirm their commitment to moderate the cost of living in Singapore, FairPrice Shop was launched in 2016 to cater to budget conscious shoppers. These stores are strategically located in matured estates and feature a smaller but more affordable range of products.
FairPrice also helps the poor and needy through the NTUC Fairprice Foundation. FairPrice launched Fairprice Foundation in 2008 to focus its giving efforts to provide a better life for the community.
From noble but humble beginnings, the NTUC FairPrice retail stores have been transformed into modern, bright and welcoming additions to neighbourhoods across the whole of Singapore.
Over the years, new retail outlets and brands have been added – see photos below: