Troubled e-retailer Ensogo shuts Singapore operations

Online retailer Ensogo has abruptly closed its Singapore operations after its Australian unit hit massive problems back home.
Online retailer Ensogo has abruptly closed its Singapore operations after its Australian unit hit massive problems back home.

Sources say staff told to leave abruptly; Australian-listed firm suspends trading

The online retailer Ensogo has abruptly closed its Singapore operations after its Australian unit hit massive problems back home.

Sources told The Straits Times that staff at the Singapore office in Kallang were told to go home when they arrived for work on Monday morning, with no prior warning given.

"They were chased out of the office and the doors were locked. Employees had been sitting outside the premises since 11am," said a source familiar with the employees.

The website's headquarters are in Singapore although the company is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

Ensogo Singapore used to be known as Deal.com.sg - founded here in 2010 by two Singapore- based Germans - and took on its current name after it was bought by e-commerce platform Ensogo.

The firm told the ASX yesterday that it accepted the resignation of chief executive officer Kris Marszalek, who has been in his position since August 2014, on Monday.

It was also announced that the South-east Asian flash sales and marketplace businesses will be shut down.

Ensogo voluntary suspended trading of its shares yesterday after a trading halt was called last Friday. The shares have fallen from A$3.80 on June 16 last year to 65 Australian cents last Thursday.

The announcement comes after a string of problems.

In March, Ensogo Singapore reportedly laid off 22 of its 96 employees here, mostly from the services team, in a decision made after the firm moved to a marketplace business model from one based on flash sales.

During flash sales, a limited number of products or services are offered at discounted rates for a fixed period of time.

The popularity of such discount sales encouraged copycat websites to mushroom, leading to consumer fatigue, while e-commerce firms like Alibaba began to prosper. In 2014, Deal.com.sg had over a million visits a month and 600,000 people on its mailing list, while rival Groupon had more than two million subscribers.

Last month, Ensogo was hit by angry merchants who posted comments on its Facebook page demanding overdue payments.

Repayment plans were reportedly made and a few merchants received small amounts last month, but it is unclear whether more reimbursements will be made, now that the office here has closed.

The source said: "Ensogo still owes a lot of the small merchants money, and they had made private agreements with them that they will pay in instalments. The first payment is supposed to start in June.

"I know a merchant who has yet to get $80,000 back, and another who is still owed $600,000, but the accountant has been sacked, so it's unlikely that any payment will be issued now."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Troubled e-retailer Ensogo shuts S'pore operations'. Print Edition | Subscribe