They make yearly cash payouts to you. That’s right – NTUC shares their profits with all their members, in the form of cash rebates and dividends.
This should not come as a surprise to the older folk, but I’ve spoken around and many do not know that Fairprice is a “co-operative”. This means that their shareholders are members like you and me. Whatever profit they make, goes back down to the staff and shareholders. Just like how any non-profit entity works.
(Which makes me wonder – perhaps the SMRT could be run like a co-operative? Hmmm…)
Now, you must have questions and we’ve thought of some for you:
– I have a Plus! card, is this different from being an NTUC Fairprice member?
Yes. NTUC Link Pte Ltd is a separate company from Fairprice. Link’s Plus! Programme is an enhanced loyalty programme. All union members get a NTUC Plus! card issued by Link for us to get LinkPoints. All union members can also apply for Fairprice shares @$1 per share (up to 20 shares each). Link also issues another card called Plus! for members of our other co-ops, but not union members. This card can only be used for LinkPoints, ie no rebates, chalet discounts, union protection.
So in short: Link Points are to collect points, Rebates are…well, cash rebates and Dividends are payouts on profit.
– To be an NTUC FairPrice member, does one have to be an NTUC Member?
Yes, only union members can buy Fairprice shares today. (But for general knowledge, this was not the case many years ago. Then, anyone could buy up to 1000 shares. We still have these shareholders from that time – they carry the red/white Fairprice card)
– Rebates will be given in cash, but is this based on your previous year’s expenditures? How is this calculated?
Yes, it will be credited via Giro or by cheque. The rate is decided after each AGM, much like a public company. So far, it averages 4% annually. Rebates are given off your total annual purchases up to $6000.
– Are you only limited to 20 shares? How does this affect how much rebate you’re given?
Yes. It does not affect your rebates. What it does affect is your dividend. The concept here is similar to buying shares of public listed companies. After each AGM, Fairprice may (or may not) declare dividends per share. The number of shares you hold will see the amount of dividends you get affected. But as long as you hold a share, you get the full rebate amount, regardless.
– Does NTUC “steal” business from local shops in neighbourhoods?
Let’s put it this this way: if NTUC was not there, a bigger fish would come along – for example Sheng Siong, Carrefour and the Dairy Farm Group (which runs Cold Storage, Jasons, 7-11, Guardian, Giant and many many more). These are for-profit companies and whose primary purpose is to turn a profit. Even if you’re a shareholder, you may not get dividends even if they turn strong profit. Mr. Lim Hock Chee (the boss of Sheng Siong), is featured by Forbes as Singapore’s Top 40 richest man. The CEO of Fairprice will never enter this list as getting rich is not on their agenda.
NTUC is a co-operative. When they make a profit – members (which means you) have a share in that profit; though not big, it helps keep costs low.
Most products are priced competitively, but occasionally, you will come across products that could cost a few cents more than the competitors. This happens because they are able to exploit economies of scale, thanks to their powerful financial muscle.
Apart from sharing profits and keeping costs low, Fairprice also has a national duty. In the past they have demonstrated:
Stabilising prices during the Gulf War caused by panic buying
Delivery of food to those quarantined during the SARS epidemic
Reducing price of eggs during Avian Flu panic of 2004
Contributed food essentials to neighbouring countries during the Asian Tsunami of 2004
Playing a role in the National Emergency Food Plan
There is a lot more work that NTUC Fairprice has done that goes unnoticed, un-talked about and under appreciated. Why? We do not know. (Rumour has it that the traditional bosses at NTUC advocate “just do good, don’t need to talk about it”… how accurate is this? It’s anybody’s guess)