Book Review - The Price of Being Fair

Source: Kinokuniya Website


As the FairPrice group in Singapore completes 50 years, "The Price of Being Fair" book is a timely story of it's birth and evolution. The book has been authored by Sue-Ann Chia and Shing Huei Peh. While being true to history, the book has nuggets of "behind the scenes" information, given the time the authors have spent with various leaders at FairPrice. The book is already a best seller according to Kinokuniya book store. At under 200 pages, it makes for a breezy read.

The Usual Suspects

Having worked in retail industry for over two decades, the travails of  NTUC FairPrice seem familiar to me.

  1. A retail CEO once remarked that retail is a pretty "public" industry. There is not much behind which a retail business can hide. As such, retailers often have to follow the aspirations and concerns of the communities and customers they serve. The journey of FairPrice from being an EDLP (everyday low price) retailer to one having multiple formats, businesses and channels has been catalogued well in the book.
  2. FairPrice overseas business forays make for interesting reading. It is one that I was not aware of. However, FairPrice is not alone in this aspect, many global retailers have had similar experiences. These experiences often help reinforce the core vision that retailers originally start out with.
  3. The advent of competition, both international and local has spurred FairPrice into focusing on the customer. Often, this is the most reliable way of success for retailers instead of following competition. 
  4. Also, the adage of "location, location, location" continues to hold true in retail even with rising competition from digital channels like - ecommerce. 

The New Trajectories

  1. Be it digital channels or loyalty, FairPrice continues to engage customers with value propositions beyond retail. It is starting to build a "consumer lifestyle platform" of sorts by offering financial services (through the tie up with Trust Bank), Core retail (FairPrice and Cheers) and F&B (in the form Kopitiam). It is an interesting play, not tried by many other retailers.
  2. As FairPrice sources products from around 100 countries, it is also gaining confidence in it's house brands. In retail, it is often the holy grail to create brands and earn higher margins through them. It is also exploring the ideas of growing these brands further in local and overseas markets.


Among all retailers, grocery retailers have a unique distinction. They form an invisible bond and sometimes tenuous relationship with the communities that they serve. 

The continued market leadership of FairPrice is good indicator of the trust that customers continue to have in the brand. As FairPrice completes it's 50th anniversary, here is wishing it many more!


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