Economic Affairs: Robinsons and the future of retail

Old-style bricks-and-mortar retail is up against the power of AI and the Marie Kondo effect

Robinsons department store announced it was closing after 162 years of operation, on Oct 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
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Watching the islandwide dismay and bewilderment over news that the iconic Robinsons will close its remaining department stores, marking a watershed moment for Singapore retail, one is reminded of a telling comment that appears in The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway's first major novel.

In that story, published in 1926, hard-drinking war veteran Mike Campbell, asked how he went bankrupt, responds: "Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly."

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