Quenching Singapore's thirst for alcohol with online deliveries

A woman’s hand reaches out to select a bottle of red wine from the shelf of a wine shop. (Photo: AFP)

Besides being a foodie nation, Singapore has quite the reputation for being a booze nation as well. According to 2010’s National Health Survey, 2.6 per cent of Singaporeans consume alcohol regularly. And by regularly, the survey meant more than four days a week.

So it’s not surprising that ever since the Liquor Control Act was passed in 2015, we’re seeing a surge in the popularity of online alcohol delivery services in the country, including AlcoholDelivery.com and Mabuk Monkey as well as newest player, Paneco Singapore, which launched its operations in the country just this year.

We have to admit, online alcohol deliveries do make for a perfect solution for those making last minute purchases but aren’t able to make it to the store before 10.30pm. Especially since the liquor law bans the sale of takeaway alcohol as well as the consumption of alcohol at public places from 10.30pm to 7.30am daily.

According to customer Teng Yong Ping, 31, who has purchased alcohol via Redmart before, “I buy alcohol from stores too, but buying it online is convenient and I don’t have to lug the heavy bottles home myself. Redmart also carries a wide range of alcoholic products at different price points, so there are lots of options. I’ve bought various drinks from Redmart, including cider and wine.”

“I had a particular alcohol in mind, and I didn’t want to spend so much time looking for the cheapest price in different stores. Buying online is better, because the prices of the different alcohol are all displayed and they also provided a one-hour delivery guarantee. It’s also cheaper to buy online than in stores,” said another customer, Carey Wong, who has bought booze from Alcoholdelivery.com.sg before.

According to Alcoholdelivery.com.sg, the increasingly hectic lifestyles of Singaporeans as well as the rise of delivery services for anything from F&B to retail options, have contributed to the popularity of alcohol delivery services in the country.

With time becoming a more vital currency in the lives of Singaporean inhabitants, alcohol delivery services offer the convenience of purchasing anything one would need for a social, drinking occasion — all at a single click of the mouse,” a spokesperson said. The local start-up ensures that only customers who are of the legal drinking age of 18 are allowed access to the website through an age verification pop-up. Deliverers will also check the IDs of customers for verification.

Today, there are at least 20 online shops in Singapore that sell and deliver alcohol islandwide, ranging from one-hour to next-day deliveries.

Alcohol delivery companies in Singapore are making it easier for locals to have booze delivered to their homes (Photo: Wikipedia).

Fuelled by advancing technology

With that said, advancing technology has also been such a boon to the industry that some vendors are choosing not to open a retail store and instead are sticking purely to e-commerce.

The newest player in the market, Paneco Singapore – which is part of the Falic group that manages Duty Free Americas – began operations here in early 2017 and has already seen business “going very fast” as a result of its use of technology.

Paneco CEO Jonathan Cohen said: “There is no reason for us to have a shop. People sometimes ask us if we have a collection site – but why do we need one? We provide free delivery, and you don’t have to carry the alcohol, which solves the issue of convenience.”

Cohen added: “We have very high end technology which is based on very advanced IMS [inventory management system], and the idea is that we analyse everything.”

Similarly, NOX Express also does not intend to go into offline business in the near future, given that technology has more to offer than the traditional retail model.

Co-founder of NOX Express Dion Pung said: “We currently do not have an intention to move into a physical retail store or include that as a part of our business model, because it is almost impossible to collect data physically.”

Other alcohol delivery services also have plans to invest heavily in technology, given the potential benefits it brings as compared to traditional retail models.

Travis and Suzanne Chia, managing directors of Alcoholdelivery.com.sg, do not intend to open a retail store but intend to “invest heavily in technology to automate and streamline” their operations and processes.

While the online alcohol industry is still growing, Cohen is confident that it will prevail against traditional business.

“[Online shops have better] price, assortment and convenience of delivery. Why would you go in a shop? You pay more, you have to carry, and you don’t have the content [that online shops might have],” Cohen said, “Why would you buy in a shop?”

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