Major shake-up at Robinsons Group; some John Little, Marks & Spencer outlets to close

SINGAPORE - The Dubai-based owner of some of Singapore's best-loved department stores has unveiled sweeping changes involving store revamps, closures and new stores.

Major upgrades will be made to Robinsons Raffles City, and Marks & Spencer at the same mall as well as its Paragon outlet, the Al-Futtaim Group said yesterday.

The John Little store in Marina Square will close on April 26, and the Tiong Bahru Plaza outlet will shut in the final quarter of the year, to "focus manpower and resources on enhancing its Plaza Singapura and Jurong Point stores".

The Marks & Spencer outlet at Centrepoint will close on March 29, which Al-Futtaim said was a business decision, to consolidate resources and focus on the other stores islandwide, including the flagship store at Wheelock Place.

The company, which owns the Robinsons Group of Stores and distribution and retailing arm RSH, said the moves were not aimed at cutting costs, but to respond to the fast-evolving retail scene.

Al-Futtaim did not disclose the cost of renovations, savings from store closures or any other financial implications of the moves.

Mr Kesri Kapur, head of business in Asia, said in a statement: "This consolidation move is part of our group's ongoing business strategy to ensure the long-term sustainability of our businesses."

Al-Futtaim took over the Robinsons Group of Stores in 2008, and invested in RSH in 2012.

The work on Robinsons Raffles City will take place in the first quarter of next year.

It plans to introduce Marks & Spencer's food hall to the Robinsons The Heeren store towards the end of this year.

Al-Futtaim also said Robinsons will team up with John Lewis, a British department store group, to introduce its home and living merchandise into all three Robinsons' stores in July.

RSH, which has fashion labels such as Zara and Massimo Dutti under its wing, will open a new Zara boutique at Changi Airport's Terminal 3 in May.

The Zara store in Ion Orchard will be expanded from this month, and is slated to reopen in May.

Al-Futtaim also said Royal Sporting House will open its first stand-alone Royal Sporting House Junior store at Suntec City in May, offering footwear for those aged between six and 12.

Of the changes, Mr Kapur said: "(This) involves the ever-evolving retail landscape, relevancy of the mall space with the brand profile, shoppers' consumption patterns as well as increasing competition and labour shortage, so as to stay relevant in the retail market."

rachaelb@sph.com.sg