National Geographic store in VivoCity to close

The National Geographic store in VivoCity mall is shutting down.

The sprawling outlet - which opened in Singapore to much fanfare in 2008 - will be moving out at the end of the month, said the mall. It did not reveal what will be taking its place.

Spain-based Worldwide Retail Store, which holds the retail licence for National Geographic, told The Straits Times that the closure was due to a "repositioning" - with the global franchise moving away from megastores and towards smaller outlets.

The National Geographic store takes up a 1,500 sq m ground-floor location - about the size of 15 four-room Housing Board flats - in the mall in HarbourFront Avenue.

It was the first outlet to open in Asia, selling expedition apparel and accessories. According to its website, the chain has four other stores in Madrid, London, Kuala Lumpur and Andorra.

Four employees at the flagship store told The Straits Times that a meeting was held just over a week ago informing them of the closure.

They declined to be named, but a cashier at the store said that job interviews had been conducted with a view to them being re-employed by another retailer.

When The Straits Times visited the outlet last Friday, there seemed to be a "fire sale" going on.

Prices of almost all products - from mugs and sweaters to photographs and furniture - had been slashed, some by more than half.

Retail analysts were not surprised by the news.

Mr Peter See-Toh, Knight Frank's managing director of retail services, reckons that the monthly rent for the ground- floor unit exceeds $200,000.

"The space is too big and they do not have enough merchandise to reap the returns they need," he said.

Ms Sarah Lim, a senior retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said rents may have been pushed up when the lease was up for renewal.

"Even a 5 to 10 per cent increase could sink a business if it is already not doing well," she said.

Shopper Benjamin Rodrigo, a 30-year-old IT worker who has been to the outlet twice, said: "It's a pity. But I've never bought anything from them. It's quite expensive, and most of the stuff is for cold weather."

Additional reporting by Bryant Chan