COVID-19 SPECIAL

As Covid-19 hits businesses, Haji Lane shop owners go extra mile to keep staff who are like family

Mr Zachery Masot (far left) and Mr Darryl Yan, founders of a group of touristdependent stores in Haji Lane, say their staff contributed greatly to the company during good times, so during this coronavirus crisis, it is important for the company to take ca
Mr Zachery Masot (far left) and Mr Darryl Yan, founders of a group of touristdependent stores in Haji Lane, say their staff contributed greatly to the company during good times, so during this coronavirus crisis, it is important for the company to take care of them. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

For two founders of a group of tourist-dependent stores in Haji Lane, although business is down, they do not intend to let go of any of the 12 staff.

Says one founder, Mr Zachery Masot, 52, who is also a director of the business: "We feel like a family, our relationship is so close. We can't afford to terminate staff or send them back (some are from Malaysia and the Philippines) because they have been with us for at least two years, some more than 10 years.

"They contributed greatly to the company during good times, so during this crisis, it's important for the company to take care of them."

The stores range from those selling men's and women's wear and accessories, to a pop-art gallery.

Business has fallen by about 60 per cent from last year, and the founders expect it to fall further this month.

Mr Masot, together with co-director Darryl Yan, started the business 10 years ago, and it has expanded to nine stores, which have names such as Raw, Beau and Simplicity. A 10th store is to open next month.

To cover some operating costs, including paying the seven full-time and five part-time staff, the duo are dipping into their company reserves. Mr Masot and Mr Yan have also taken a 50 per cent pay cut for two months so far, and may continue to do so.

Business has slowed as many of the Haji Lane shops depend on tourists. All short-term visitors have been barred from entering or transiting in Singapore from 11.59pm on March 23.

The company is trying to cut costs through measures such as saving on electricity, and cutting out third parties for certain jobs like stock taking - instead, they ask the full-time staff to do it.

 
 
 
 

"Some full-timers, we have asked them to volunteer to take unpaid leave. In one month, they take two days' unpaid leave. This is how we can save all our staff," says Mr Masot.

Mr Yan, 32, says: "We hope that things will turn positive. Now, we are going through some renovations that were already in the pipeline, upgrading and putting a new system in place to fill up the time."

The pair hopes to emerge stronger. Mr Masot adds: "Even though this is a down period, I want to fight with all that we have."

His co-founder agrees, saying: "We built up our whole empire from scratch for 10 years. Giving up is not on our minds. We will never give up, no matter what."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 05, 2020, with the headline 'Shop owners go extra mile to keep staff who are like family'. Print Edition | Subscribe