Alright, call me a late bloomer, I’ve only tried out Redmart’s service a week ago and it was really the result of incessant nagging.
Nagging from my helper to be precise.
After one too many “Sir, have you bought the oil yet?” texts, Facebook’s algorithm served up the online mart’s advertisement on my feed.
No sooner had I made my first click, a wave of possibilities came flooding over me.
Let me share some very personal background with you, dear reader; I live in an HDB apartment together with my wheelchair-bound father and my domestic helper. Now, she’s not a very adventurous shopper so he ends up eating the same dishes day in day out.
But with Redmart, I’m now suddenly shopping together with my father on the computer.
He’s pointing out the things he never knew he would want had he not seen them. We’re going through recipe ideas together with my helper. There’s laughter, there’s chatter and then click: the groceries are en route.
There was a time when I loved grocery shopping, but today it is no longer a pleasant experience.
You go berserk waiting for a parking lot. You bump trolleys with a herd of impatient shoppers navigating the same narrow aisles you’re in. You wait in queue for an eternity, restlessly refreshing your Facebook feed for the thousandth time and when you finally get to pay, you meet gloomiest of cashiers who serves you with all the enthusiasm of a potted plant.
Going to the supermarket has turned into a burdensome chore that costs hours and dollars. I return home with a broken spirit and broken eggs.
Then there is environmental damage.
Ultra bright supermarket lights, open refrigeration, logistics, delivery trucks and shoppers mileage all contribute to carbon emissions. The chemicals released by blizzard cold refrigeration units account for up to 30% of emissions. The environmental impact of supermarket refrigeration is said to be a lot more damaging than the plastic bags.
We can expect to see more 24-hour outlets owing to increasing demand from consumers who work overtime and irregular hours.
The planet is doomed.
According to a DBS ASEAN Grocery retail report from 2015, we have 188 grocery stores per 1m population.
Compare this to Indonesia which has 96 stores per 1m population. We’re drowning in convenience – there are some 940 stores all over the island, many operating round the clock draining precious electricity from our grids and manpower from our labour force.
Then there is waste.
Tons of waste are generated through inefficient, though inevitable corporate purchasing.
The National Environment Agency revealed that 790,000 tonnes of food waste was generated by Singaporeans in 2014, but only 13% is recycled. If supermarket executives can plan their purchases according to real demand, they can tailor more efficient buying and erase a lot of wastage.
Do we really need all these supermarkets?
In fact, let us think wider – in this age of digital delivery, do we really need another retail store, more convenience stores, more shopping malls and another flashy cinema?
I say, get rid of the lot.
Get rid of these retail establishments and in their place build more open spaces, more parks, more conservation areas and bigger homes. If we yearn to go out and walk, let us do it in green spaces, places of heritage and culture, of religion, arts and learning instead of selling our precious space to these cold concrete temples of accumulation.
Don’t worry about loss of jobs. Singapore has a problem with shortage of manpower, not jobs.
With more places to learn, more space to collaborate, the workforce will learn new skills, form new networks, embark on exciting projects and build more meaningful businesses…resulting in more jobs for everyone.
That – that is the Singapore I want to see. And it is possible.
Honestbee now delivers from a variety of established shops that include hardware, pet food and exotic European foods. Their personal shoppers (they call them “bees”) make the purchases for you and independent drivers make consolidated deliveries.
This is an economist’s wet dream – productive use of time, efficient use of machine and manpower.
There really is little need to visit a mall anymore.
What about the Singaporean’s favourite waste of time – the cinema? AppleTV has thousands of very good movies for rent and purchase. Netflix has a buffet of shows that you can watch for just $10 a month.
Buy a projector and build yourself a nice cosy home cinema that you can watch wearing nothing but your underwear. Or well, nothing at all if you want. Why on earth would you want to squeeze with a million other humans in trains, malls and carparks?
You know what I want to see? I want to see these malls disappear.
When they go, I want to see the attitude of materialism disappear. I want to see more space for families, more space for living.
More space to grow healthier, happier, more meaningful homes.
Benjamin Chiang is an enthusiast of good advertising, deep thinking, labour issues and chocolate. He is also a private student of law with the University of London.