SINGAPORE – After adding groceries to her cart on the FairPrice phone app last Friday (Oct 1), Madam Irene Tan, 47, realised she could not get them delivered over the weekend, as she usually does.
All weekend delivery slots had been filled and the earliest she could receive her order was on Monday afternoon.
The student care teacher told The Straits Times on Wednesday (Oct 6): “I am frequently around young children so I prefer buying my essentials online to avoid large crowds.”
But she had no choice but to buy her groceries at a physical supermarket over the weekend. “It was a quick trip, but I had to lug heavy bags of groceries. I guess it is a lesson learnt for me to place my order earlier,” Madam Tan added.
Ms Megan Char, who orders groceries from RedMart every Sunday, was surprised she had to pay a delivery fee of $1.50 on Sunday.
“I usually choose a delivery slot on Thursday, and it has always been free. This was the first time I had to pay. It is frustrating, but I understand this could be due to the high demand,” the 24-year-old student said.
Most supermarkets, online grocers and food delivery services have seen a spike in orders over the past week as more Singaporeans stayed home after the tightened restrictions kicked in on Sept 27.
The measures come amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in the community. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) reported 3,486 new infections, the first time daily cases have passed the 3,000 mark here.
Some supermarkets and delivery companies told ST they have ramped up manpower to cope with the increased demand over the past week.
A spokesman for FairPrice said demand for online groceries over the past week has increased, and it has ramped up its delivery capacity in anticipation of this demand.
“Nonetheless, availability of delivery slots and delivery times may fluctuate due to periods of demand surges.
“To ensure customers are able to secure delivery slots, FairPrice Online releases new delivery slots daily,” he added.
A spokesman for Lazada said daily orders on RedMart, which it owns, have gone up by about 15 per cent since Sept 27.
“We are well-equipped to deal with minor demand fluctuations, and are constantly monitoring and working with suppliers to ensure there is enough stock for products. Delivery slots are in hot demand, though not to the point where no slots are available,” said the spokesman.
Shopee Supermarket has also ramped up its manpower after a “significant uptick” in demand for online orders since Sept 27.
Its spokesman said: “We are working closely with our delivery partners to ensure we can meet the usual delivery turnaround times without incurring additional expenses for users.”
A Grab spokesman, who declined to reveal figures, said demand for its food delivery service has gone up in the past two weeks. He added that the top grocery items ordered from GrabSupermarket are staples like fresh milk, vegetables and rice.
A foodpanda spokesman told ST that orders on its online grocery store, pandamart, which operates 24/7 and delivers on demand in as fast as 30 minutes, have jumped almost 50 per cent since the start of the pandemic.
He said foodpanda has also seen a “consistent increase” in demand for food deliveries, and incentives have been rolled out to allow riders to earn more per order during peak hours in locations with high demand.
A spokesman for Deliveroo said a survey in January this year had shown a rising trend of Singaporeans ordering groceries through food delivery apps.
On food deliveries, the spokesman said: “Over 3,000 restaurants have joined our platform across a variety of cuisines since the start of the pandemic, bringing the total number to 8,000.”
Regular customers of food delivery services told ST they have noticed an increase in delivery charges since the recent tightening of Covid-19 curbs.
Mr Lim Heng Yu, a 26-year-old engineer who works from home and often orders lunch via GrabFood, said on Wednesday: “The delivery charge for the chicken cutlet I wanted to order for lunch today was $5.70, instead of the usual $3.50. I think it is because of the high demand. So I had to find something else for lunch.”
Mr Lim said three McDonald’s outlets that deliver to his Woodlands home would often close their online service temporarily at dinner time, possibly due to high demand.
Ms Leanne Tan, 23, also had difficulty ordering from McDonald’s. “It’s harder to order McDonald’s on GrabFood now because it’s always closed. I think that is because of the seaweed shaker fries (a popular seasonal menu item).”
“On Sunday, I wanted to order McDonald’s at 5pm or 6pm, but it only opened at 9.30pm,” the student added.
ST has also contacted DFI Retail Group, which owns Giant and Cold Storage, and Sheng Siong for comment.