F J Benjamin bags rights to Marc Jacobs distributorship

Luxury label stores to open here amid tough retail scene; deal also covers Malaysia and Indonesia

The American designer Marc Jacobs, who injected edge into Louis Vuitton during his stint there as creative director, is set to open his own brand-name stores here.

The move is part of exclusive distribution rights, secured by Singapore-listed fashion and lifestyle group F J Benjamin Holdings, and includes Malaysia and Indonesia.

Four Marc Jacobs stores will open in the next two years, but no specific details were provided.

The upcoming stores will carry Marc Jacobs' women's ready-to-wear, shoes, jewellery, bags and accessories. PHOTO: DAN & CORINA LECCA

The stores will carry Marc Jacobs' women's ready-to-wear, shoes, jewellery, bags and accessories, and is different from the more affordable Marc by Marc Jacobs line, which is distributed by Club 21 in Singapore.

It remains to be seen if this move will boost fortunes at F J Benjamin.

Marc Jacobs' parent firm, the French luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said last year it would discontinue the Marc by Marc Jacobs line.

However, it had also said earlier this month that "it did not plan to sell the loss-making Marc Jacobs company", reported Reuters.

F J Benjamin has had to battle the tough retail scene in Singapore, closing the last store of its home- grown label Raoul here in the Paragon mall in February. However, it is still available online.

F J Benjamin group chief operations officer Douglas Benjamin told The Straits Times in April: "We didn't want to keep the Paragon store open and pay the rents that were being asked. Right now, we are focusing on our wholesale business in the United States and Europe."

A string of chain stores have given up here this year.

Home-grown fashion retailer Jay Gee Melwani spoke of its plans in April to close eight stores here in the second half of the year.

The affected brands were British name New Look and French menswear chain Celio.

The Al-Futtaim Group, the Dubai-based owner of Robinsons and John Little, is also shutting 10 outlets here under its distribution and retailing arm RSH.

In 2014, F J Benjamin reported its first loss since the 2008 financial crisis, and later found itself in the red for the third straight quarter by September last year.

The exception was a net profit for the three months to Dec 31 in 2014, with a rise in earnings mainly owing to gains from the partial sale of convertible bonds issued by its Indonesian associated company.

The firm announces its fourth- quarter results today.

While the retail scene is in the doldrums, the firm has not stopped investing in other areas, such as its luxury business.

It opened its second Celine and Givenchy boutiques at Marina Bay Sands in 2014, and brought in Pretty Ballerinas, a popular ballerina pump and flat-shoe brand from Spain, last year.

Prices of the shoes range from $160, for children's sizes, to $560. The brand had to move from a 230 sq ft store at Paragon to a shop with twice the space in the same mall in 2015 due to strong demand.

F J Benjamin declined to reveal how well the brand is doing here, but Pretty Ballerinas founder David Bell said in February that Singapore was its best-performing market in Asia, adding that its ballerina-style shoes do better in Asia than in Europe or the United States.

F J Benjamin Holdings shares closed flat at 4.6 cents yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'F J Benjamin bags rights to Marc Jacobs distributorship'. Subscribe