Facing challenges head-on and innovating for success: Elaine Heng’s success journey with FairPrice Group’s Retail Business

Through her leadership, FairPrice Group redefined the way customers must be served.

In times of global economic uncertainty, business leaders are often looked upon to guide the organisation through challenges and drive growth whilst responding to consumers’ changing needs. As Singapore’s largest grocery retailer, FairPrice Group had to ensure supply chains were not disrupted and climate-related issues were addressed, in addition to the challenges mentioned above.

Against these defining challenges of our time, FairPrice Group (FPG), under the leadership of Deputy Group CEO and CEO for Retail Business Elaine Heng, remained steadfast in its social mission of moderating the cost of living for Singaporeans whilst turning in a profit and innovating for the future.

As FPG’s CEO of Retail Business, Elaine leads the overall business, management, and success of the Co-operative's business comprising FairPrice supermarkets, hypermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores. Whilst building a sustainable business inside and out, Elaine pioneered initiatives that address the cost of living challenges and ensure vulnerable customers have reliable access to FPG products and services.

Elaine has played a critical role in ensuring innovation across FPG business and constantly pushes boundaries. Under her leadership, the grocery shopping experience was reinvented and elevated with the introduction of unique retail concepts at FairPrice outlets, such as FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets at Vivocity and Parkway Parade, which feature blended lifestyle retail spaces that offer customers an integrated shopping and dining experience.

Another key initiative was Scan & Go, an omni-channel initiative that was introduced to shoppers in 2019. With Scan & Go, shoppers use the FairPrice app to scan products and purchase them directly without having to queue up to make payments. There are now 16 stores equipped with the Scan & Go system, a first amongst Singapore grocery chains. FPG’s first fully self-serve outlet was also opened at Sengkang Grand Mall in March 2023, featuring 12 self-checkout (SCO) counters for faster and more convenient shopping.

Back to FPG’s social mission to moderate the cost of living for customers whilst helping them cope with inflationary pressures, a series of initiatives were rolled out. They include implementing price freezes and special discounts on daily essentials like eggs, oil, and rice across several periods throughout the year. 

On top of FPG’s concerted efforts to help customers stretch their dollar, Elaine championed community initiatives during the pandemic, such as FairPrice On Wheels and Priority Shopping Hour. FairPrice On Wheels was introduced in 2020 to serve seniors who did not have easy access to a nearby supermarket by bringing groceries to their doorstep via specially retrofitted vans. Meanwhile, the Priority Shopping Hour gave seniors and the vulnerable a dedicated time to shop exclusively.

Tackling sustainability, a growing disruptor, FairPrice was the first to introduce charges for disposable plastic bags in any Singaporean supermarket in order to shape customer behaviour. Since its trial in 2019, this initiative has been expanded to cover all Cheers and FairPrice Xpress stores and 11 selected FairPrice supermarkets.

In addition to leading FPG’s Retail Business, Elaine leveraged her previous experience in banking to help FPG launch Trust Bank, the first of the nation’s new wave of digital banks, which features a range of products for its customers, comprising a credit card, savings account, and family personal accident insurance. The card is combined with Link Rewards, the market-leading rewards and loyalty programme integrated with the FPG ecosystem.

As of end-March 2023, over 500,000 customers had joined Trust, which had attracted $1b in deposits as of May 2023, making it one of the fastest-growing digital banks anywhere in the world.

FPG’s innovation and accomplishments would not have been possible without the guidance and leadership of Elaine. She is a leader who leaves no stone unturned whilst growing and investing in the business and redefining the way FPG serves customers.

The success of FPG through her leadership has been recognised by the Retail Asia Awards as Elaine receives the CEO of the Year category win. The prestigious awards programme gathers the region's best retailers and recognises major breakthroughs, innovations, and key players in the Asian retail industry.

The Retail Asia Awards is presented by Retail Asia Magazine. To view the full list of winners, click here. If you want to join the 2024 awards programme and be acclaimed for your company's exceptional products or initiatives in the retail industry, please contact Jane Patiag at [email protected].

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