Robinsons: Down memory lane with Singapore's oldest home-grown department store

Robinsons made news recently when Franz Kraatz, the man credited with revamping the staid image of the 156-year-old department store, left his managing director's position just seven months after the new Robinsons Orchard's grand opening in November last year.

We look back on the defining moments of Singapore's oldest home-grown department store.

1858: A new firm, Spicer & Robinson, is founded by Englishman Philip Robinson, then living in Singapore, and James Gaborian Spicer, a former keeper of the Singapore Jail. The company is located at Commercial Square, now known as Raffles Place.

1859: The firm expands from mainly selling groceries to millinery and dressmaking. By the end of the year, James Spicer has left the business and the company is renamed Robinson & Co. Philip Robinson also brings in a new business partner, George Rappa Jr.

1881: By this time, Robinsons is the preferred store for European expatriates in Singapore.

1891: After shifting several times, including moves to North Bridge Road and Coleman Street, the store returns to its original location at Raffles Place.

1920: Robinson & Co becomes a limited company.

1941: The outlet at Raffles Chambers is hit twice by Japanese bombs during World War II, but reopens the next day.

1942-1945: The firm is closed during the Japanese Occupation.

1946: The department store resumes trade.

1955: Robinsons takes over John Little and still owns it today.

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1957: The store undergoes a facelift and is called the "handsomest shop in the Far East".

1958: Robinsons gains the franchise for Marks and Spencer for Singapore.

1972: The store is destroyed by a fire at Raffles Place, which kills nine people and wipes out $21 million worth of property. It relocates to Specialists' Centre in Orchard Road after the fire.

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1983: Robinsons becomes the anchor tenant at The Centrepoint.

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1990s: Regular warehouse sales during this period tarnish its reputation as an upscale department store.

2001: A new $30-million store, covering 85,000 sq ft, opens at Raffles City in March, targeting trendy, young customers. Centrepoint outlet gets a brand new look.

2006: OCBC sells 29.9 per cent of its stake in the group to Indonesia's Lippo Group, through Auric Pacific Singapore, for $203 million.

2008: Retail operations are sold for $600 million to the UAE-based Al-Futtaim Group.

2013: Robinsons moves to a new S$40-million outlet at 260 Orchard Road (formerly The Heeren), taking over five floors and the basement. The swanky store with many new brands aims to attract a high-end market with its stylish interior and posh atmosphere. Another outlet is opened at Jem in Jurong East.

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2014: Metro announces that it will take over the former Robinsons store at The Centrepoint as the anchor tenant and will open the store in the fourth quarter of the year. Robinsons' managing director Franz Kraatz steps down.

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