Staff, suppliers to thank for CK's swift recovery after blaze

Some staff worked from a coffee shop (above) near the burnt building (below) while waiting for their new premises to be ready.
Some staff worked from a coffee shop (above) near the burnt building while waiting for their new premises to be ready.PHOTO: CK HOLDINGS
Some staff worked from a coffee shop (above) near the burnt building (below) while waiting for their new premises to be ready.
Some staff worked from a coffee shop near the burnt building (above) while waiting for their new premises to be ready.PHOTO: ST FILE

Retailer able to move to temporary site in Changi just 2 weeks after Aug 17 fire

It was a blaze that gutted the CK Building, destroying three floors of a six-storey facility that served as a warehouse for CK Holdings' merchandise.

But barely days after the August fire at its Tampines headquarters, it was business as usual for the Singapore department store operator.

Two weeks after the fire, it had a temporary home in Changi South Street 2. But it remains unclear how long CK will be there as the company plans its next steps.

Said Ms Ang Wei Xia, director of CK Holdings: "(The fire) was unexpected news, and we were concerned about the safety of anyone who was in and around the vicinity of the building."

The Aug 17 blaze, the longest industrial estate fire of the year, took firefighters 161/2 hours to put out. Close to 70 people were evacuated from the building. Although no one was hurt, thick black smoke from the blaze could be seen as far away as Kallang that day.

"Although the fire took out levels four to six of the warehouse, we are thankful that important documents, computers and servers in levels one to three remained untouched," she added.

The 80 or so employees based in the Tampines headquarters have since moved to its temporary premises in Changi.

The swift recovery was down to the strong support network of both staff and CK's suppliers, said Ms Ang, who is the daughter of company founder Ang Chin Koon.

The employees swung into action just a day after the fire, meeting and figuring out what needed to be done to get operations up and running again.

Staff entered the charred building to recover items over the weekend and on the following Monday, employees were reassigned to several outlets instead. They were relocated gradually to Changi later.

A few others, including Ms Ang and around 10 staff, worked from a coffee shop near the former headquarters until their new facility was ready.

Each morning, her father bought breakfast such as bananas and bread for the staff.

Suppliers made direct deliveries to the stores instead of the company's warehouse.

The company's interim facility in Changi consists of four floors and serves as warehouse and office. Its central distribution centre spans about 45,000 sq ft and the facility will cost CK about $1 million annually to rent.

While the blaze had "dealt a blow" to CK, its 19 outlets did not have to halt business after the incident as they had enough stock.

"Business ran as usual over the whole period. Income over the past two months is at a healthy level, with no obvious fluctuations," said Ms Ang.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said investigations into the fire are still ongoing.

In the meantime, CK is assessing the damage from the fire, which will include the cost of rebuilding its headquarters.

The building was a $15 million facility that housed the head office and training facility of local retail chain myCK, which sells products ranging from fashion and skincare to toiletries and household items.

The company bought the six-storey Tampines building from Mapletree Logistics Trust and opened it in December 2011.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Staff, suppliers to thank for CK's swift recovery after blaze'. Print Edition | Subscribe