Friday, January 11, 2013

Farewell Carrefour Part 1: Plaza Singapura Outlet

Remember Carrefour? Carrefour was the French hypermarket which first made its debut at Suntec City Mall in the year 1997 and they opened a second outlet at Plaza Singapura in 2003. Carrefour Singapore made an announcement in August 2012 that the two stores were going to close down due to high costs of rent and loss of profits. After the popularity of competitor hypermarkets, upmarket supermarkets and smaller scale neighbourhood supermarkets, it's no wonder Carrefour was struggling. In this article, I will be giving you a tour of what Carrefour looked like before its official closure. Today's article will be about the outlet found at Plaza Singapura. The article on the Carrefour outlet at Suntec City Mall will be coming in a few days time.

Entering Carrefour Plaza Singapura 

The Plaza Singapura outlet can be accessed on both Basement 2 and Level 1 of the mall. Carrefour used to be located at the other end of Plaza Singapura. Carrefour sells a wide variety of items such as food, fresh produce, budget electronics, clothes and so much more. It's like a department store with budget items and lots of food. Level 1 is the level where Carrefour sells food items while at Basement 2, Carrefour sells non-food items. However, customers can pay for their purchases at any of these two levels. Just like a typical hypermarket, most of the interior are coloured white and they are filled with big and bright lights. It's a nice environment which will encourage shoppers to make big purchases.

The Non Food Section 

I entered the Basement 2 level of Carrefour and just like what I have mentioned earlier, this is the non-food section of the hypermarket. There were a wide variety of products found here like electronics, gardening equipment, clothes, toys, shoes and what not. Most of them were cheap and affordable because of the way they were manufactured and the country that they were manufactured from. Plus, electronics sold at Carrefour like laptops and desktop computers were previous generation products which were pretty outdated which explains their cheap prices. One of them was a mini laptop running Windows XP that was first released in the year 2009. There were also some branded and affordable cookware and stationery at Carrefour Plaza Singapura.

The Toys Section 

There was also a section dedicated to toys at Carrefour Plaza Singapura's basement 2 level. This section was a favourite among young children. The last time I visited this section of the hypermarket, there were children here asking their parents what they wanted from the Toys section. After browsing around some of the toys that were on sale, I noticed that none of the toys were branded and there were several brands that were unheard of. Since it's not a toy store or a department store but a hypermarket that sells budget goods, they had to sell these so that shoppers can afford them.

Big Yellow Price Tags 

This will be something that I will miss at Carrefour. These big gigantic yellow price tags that enable the staff member to adjust the pricing by flipping the pages around like a pocket notepad. It's an easy way to display price tags as compared to typing them out. Plus, they can capture the attention of shoppers since they were pretty big and legible.

Carrefour's Free Delivery Service 

Here's a banner that captured my attention while walking around the store. Carrefour offered a free home delivery service as long as you spend money with a minimum of $150 at the hypermarket. This is convenient for those who buy lots of groceries or big ticket items who live very far from Carrefour. However, since Carrefour is out of business in Singapore, this service is non-existant now. I wonder if the other hypermarkets offer this service to their customers.

Electronic Price Checkers 

Here is another thing that is most commonly found in hypermarkets, an electronic price checker. This little gadget does what it says it does which is to help check your price. So, if you have an item that you are unsure what the actual price is, scan the barcode of the item and the small little display will show the actual price. It's almost like being a cashier except that you cannot pay for your purchase here. Unfortunately, it was not working the last time I visited Carrefour. In fact, all the Electronic Price Checkers had their functionality disabled. I still do not get what the purpose of this gadget is since there were price tags almost everywhere for each item you want to purchase at the store.

Heading to Level 1 

After checking the Basement 2 level of the hypermarket, it was time for me to head to Level 1 of the hypermarket to check out the Food section. This level looks more like a supermarket whereas Basement 2 looks more like a department store. It is a hypermarket after all, right?

Travellator Shopping 

Typically, when there are two levels at a hypermarket, there are travellators (in some cases, lifts) that help transport customers and their trolleys to the other level without any hassle. Carrefour took it a step further by introducing Travellator Shopping. Okay, maybe there is no name to it but I call it Travellator Shopping simply because you can grab things and put it in your shopping cart while on the travellator. In the middle of the two travellators, there were boxes with Lay's potato chips and potato crisps that customers can just easily grab. It's an interesing concept and it encourages shoppers to buy more things. Oh and sorry for the blurry picture above because I was on the up-riding travellator and it was surprisingly moving at a high speed.

Level 1 of Carrefour Plaza Singapura 

After reaching the other level at Carrefour, I can't help it but to take a photo of this signage which directs shoppers to head down to the Basement for some non-food shopping.

Emptying the Shelves 

Unfortunately, while I was at Level 1 of the hypermarket, a lot of the shelves were emptied and some of them were in the process of being emptied. Last time, I remembered there were so many shelves in front of the Bakery section of Carrefour Plaza Singapura which made the store pretty big and filled with lots of goodies. However, one week after the announcement of Carrefour's closure, some of the shelves were already gone which made the store spacious and very empty. It's quite sad to see it in such a state. The bakery was still packed with lots of fresh baked goods and the fridge nearby contained a lot of bottles of mineral water ready to be purchased in bulk by customers.

Poultry and Refrigerated Items 

At this part of Carrefour was where most of the refrigerated items can be found. The others were located in the middle of the hypermarket itself. Over here, you could find a wide variety of frozen food, frozen poultry and other refrigerated items. I'm not entirely sure if there were ice cream here since some of the refrigerators were already wrapped up in black plastic and emptied which you can see on the right side of the picture found above. There were also some frozen products that were foreign and cannot be found at other supermarkets and hypermarkets. This was what made Carrefour stand out from all the other big players out there.

Fresh Produce Section 

Even though the hypermarket was in the verge of clearing out the shelves, there were still some fresh produce and other items like dried snacks that were still on sale. Nothing really special to talk about over here as it was almost the same as the fresh produce section at competitor stores. However, I found this Weighing Machine to be pretty interesting because of the big poster of fruits that was pasted onto this machine. What was puzzling was that there was no one manning this counter.

The Carrefour Freshness Guarantee 

There was also this poster that was hanging which caught my attention. The poster highlighted that Carrefour's fresh produce was truly fresh and that if it isn't fresh, they can give you a full refund or exchange it for a fresher one. Now, that is a big promise. Other retailers that sell produce should have this promise because some of the produce that I bought from some competitor stores were not really fresh and they won't refund me. Also, there was a poster outside the entrance comparing the prices of some of its fresh produce with competitor hypermarkets. Carrefour claimed that they sell fresh produce ad lowest prices compared to their competitors. 

In A Nutshell 

Overall, Carrefour was truly a great hypermarket that had lots of potential to succeed. However, high costs of rent, customers favouring competitor stores, falling profits and high prices of certain goods made Carrefour close down. Perhaps if they were to open more stores in HDB neighbourhoods and made some of their items more affordable, they can be even more successful. Still, it was sad to see a hypermarket that opened to much fanfare go after many years of operation. In a few days time, I will be writing an article about the Suntec City Mall outlet that opened in 1997.

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