The futuristic Habitat by Honestbee grocery retail format is set for expansion across Asia provided Honestbee can secure court protection from its creditors.
Honestbee, which has debts estimated in the range of US$180 million, is awaiting a court decision on an application for a six-month reprieve from enforcement actions and legal proceedings from creditors.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore, incoming CEO Ong Lay Ann says if the decision goes in the company’s favour a core plank of the restructuring program will be focusing on the high-tech Habitat by Honestbee concept, which has one outlet trading in suburban Singapore. The concept merges cashless grocery store with a restaurant and a testbed for new retail technologies. Customers can shop for groceries and have them home delivered, dine in store or order food to go.
“Once we do the restructuring and clean up, the prognosis for the business is actually good, and parts of the business have tremendous potential, like Habitat” Ong Lay Ann told Yahoo Finance.
“There are plans to open Habitat around the region and we have partners that are working with us to develop in other countries.”
Ong said the company is in “advanced discussions” with prospective partners in South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia and expects stores to begin trading there “within a couple of months”.
“We will adopt a partnership model, so we will collaborate with potential operators and work with them to develop Habitat in its current form or Habitat 2.0.”
The 5000sqm Habitat by Honestbee store opened last November in an industrial building in Pasir Panjang.
“The Singapore store is a proof of concept. It is where we will actually test the technology and make sure the kinks are ironed out before we roll out in other countries,” Ong said.
Future locations are more likely to be in shopping complexes rather than industrial estates.
The full interview can be read here.