Retail developers in the current climate are feeling the brunt of the age of internet-shopping. It is not uncommon now in central Singapore to walk into a shopping mall devoid of crowds and anchor tenants of international brands. The retail sector is constantly trying to figure out what it will take to get shoppers away from their computer screens and into their stores.
Spiraling costs means that securing long term tenants are a problem, and with mall after mall in a constant state of renovation and redevelopment, consumers are unwilling to even step into some of these places to shop where only a handful of tenants are available.
We take a look at some brands that have become victims of this fallout. Some, shelved away until a new investor appears; while others, gone for good.
Photo: Vulcan Post
The furniture and home decor store, which first opened in 2007, is in the process of winding down its two outlets in Tanglin Mall and Great World City. A spokesman cited that the closure was due to "the company bringing in new concepts". News of their impending closure gained momentum when they started having closing down sales on the 19th of February.
With their last post on Facebook dated 1st April, they may still be around, barely. An employee was quoted saying that the shutters will come down "around May or June".
Photo: Vulcan Post
Lifestyle and furnishings retailer Francfranc joins the list of Japanese franchises which failed to maintain a foothold on the local market. They ceased operations in the middle of 2014, closing both stores in JCube and VivoCity, after a presence of merely two years. News of their closure came especially as a shock considering that no specific reason was given; and in 2012, the chief executive officer of the brand, Fumio Takashima, shared plans to expand the business to seven or eight stores.
3. Goods of Desire
Photo: Vulcan Post
Another lifestyle and furnishings retailer who has disappeared is Goods of Desire. Hailing from Hong Kong, all their items were stylized with heavy oriental influences to appeal to the East Asian market. So one would think that opening a first overseas flagship store in Central Mall, so close to Chinatown, would reap in the profits.
Unfortunately, exactly a year ago, Goods of Desire too pulled out of Singapore. The founder, architect-entrepreneur Douglas Young, mentioned the growing shift of consumer spending of their items towards the digital space, especially as the store was clearing out. In fact, so much that they have since revamped their website so that Singaporeans can continue purchasing their items.
After raking in millions of dollars in losses, Parco shuttered down its 83,000 square feet premise at Millenia Walk in February 2014. Parco is actually a retail management company housing fashion focused products of brands from Japan and other overseas countries. One of their last great projects was to provide a space, Parco Next Next, for emerging local designers to set up shop and promote themselves.
The space vacated by Parco is now home to Harvey Norman's largest flagship megastore.
5. Celio / New Look
Photo: Vulcan Post
These two stores always came in a pair in malls. Both brands are by distributor Jay Gee Melwani Group, and are expected to close within the second half of the year. Celio, a French menswear brand, and British brand New Look, have been having closing down sales in the few stores they have left since late last year. Managing director R Dhinakaran mentioned that all the outlets were not meeting sales targets and operating costs were getting too high, while also mentioning stiff competition with e-commerce.
7. Lowrys Farm
Three years into their venture here, Lowrys Farm closed all eight of their outlets just a day shy of Chinese New Year in 2015. The closure was due to the stores not meeting enough sales because of "climate difference and fashion taste". As entrants such as H&M finally making their way to our shores, with their aggressive marketing and clothing lines that appeal much more to the younger audiences, brands such as Lowrys Farm took a beating in sales as their products are much pricier, yet not as sophisticated.
Though they held a promising position as one of Singapore's top fashion brands, Raoul shut down its last store in Paragon back in February this year. Choosing to focus on the wholesale business of their products to markets in the Middle East, USA and Europe, Raoul is just another victim of rising rents. Now locals hoping to get their hands on clothes from the brand will have to turn their attention online at websites such as neimanmarcus.com, harrods.com and saksfifthavenue.com, or at the Raoul website itself.
Another local fashion label which has disappeared is M)phosis. Like Raoul, they were touted as one local label to look out for and they shocked local designers with the news of their closure. They have since closed all of its outlets in Southeast Asia, Singapore included, towards the end of 2015. Their stores in China are still operational when news of their closure in Singapore was last reported. Brand director, Mr Hensley Teheason, told reporters that a severe cash-flow situation was the main reason for the closure.
10. Comics Connection
Now just a remnant in the memories of 90s Singaporean kids, Comics Connections was the place to get the latest comics, trading cards and games. For 23 years, this family-run business and its founder Mr Felix Yeo stocked translated versions of popular Japanese manga in his stores, along with anime merchandise. With the advent of online comics distributed by the publishers themselves, and higher rentals, his store was badly hit. Comics Connection was also mooted by former customers to have lost its core focus when they got on the Hallyu bandwagon and started selling K-Pop merchandise.
Expect More Closures Soon
As more consumers choose to spend their income online, empty and deserted malls will soon be a lot more common. International brands are now offering direct shipping to Singapore, and even if they're not, there are lots of delivery forwarding services available at the click of a mouse.
So, where will you be doing your shopping next?