Sunday, 2024 July 21

Singapore startup honestbee’s use of industrial space for retail gets government green light

Singapore-headquartered online grocery and food delivery startup honestbee has the regulatory go-ahead for its retail offering inside a designated industrial space zone,  Business Times reports.

This move by the Singapore government is another step in the city-state’s push to become a smart nation that supports new business models.

honestbee launched a high-tech supermarket, Habitat, in October last year. It’s located at Boon Leat Terrace’s industrial building. Groceries at the Habitat only take up to 40% of the store’s 60,000 square feet; there are also a bunch of open-concept cafes. Like the usual supermarket, there is a wide range of groceries ranging from fruits, cooked and raw meat, fish, seafood to dairy products with one important catch: an automated cashless checkout system.

This type of use is unusual in a designated industrial zone.

A spokesperson from Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) told Business Times that it recognises new businesses’ need for flexibility and it had allowed “ancillary retail use” in the case of Honestbee. The URA said it evaluates requests on a case-by-case basis, looking at factors such as the “site context, impact on the surroundings, and support from economic agencies”. This could mean more freedom to test new models in the same area, moving forward.

honestbee plans to continue rolling out this tech-powered grocery and dining concept beyond Singapore, into the seven other Asian markets where it operates.

That said, Habitat is still in its conceptual stage now. According to a review by moneysmart, the technology deployed by honestbee in its Habitat space doesn’t integrate well with the entire shopping experience.

‘New Retail’ as a megatrend is unlikely to go away. These types of Online-offline retail concepts are well established in China and they seem to sit well with consumer preferences. Purely online retail – Alibaba,, Pinduoduo – despite its huge success, only accounts for less than 20% of China’s overall consumption. Thus, Alibaba began its push into the offline landscape, and quickly followed suit. Alibaba’s Hema stores, Amazon Go, JD’s 7Fresh are some of the prominent players today.

Editor: Nadine Freischlad


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