SINGAPORE - Five months after it stopped operations, home-grown retailer Naiise has made a comeback online on Thursday (Sept 16) after being acquired for an undisclosed amount by the WestStar Group.
WestStar Group is an investment firm founded by Mr Ong Lay Ann, formerly the chief executive of now-insolvent Honestbee.
Naiise, best known for stocking products by local designers, creatives and artisans, had announced the acquisition on its Instagram and Facebook pages on Thursday morning.
Its website went live at 9pm with about 20 brands.
The acquisition included Naiise’s online market platform, trademark and social media accounts.
The multi-label retailer had stopped operations on April 14 three days after it closed its Jewel Changi Airport store, and following years of payment delays to its vendors.
Among its creditors were hundreds of vendors owed sums from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands, banks and former employees.
Besides putting Naiise into liquidation, its founder, Mr Dennis Tay, also filed for personal bankruptcy.
Mr Tan Wei Cheong, a partner with Deloitte & Touche and the liquidator of Naiise, told The Straits Times that the company has no material assets left. He declined to comment on debt recovery for creditors.
Naiise offered assurances to would-be vendors in its post on Thursday, saying that its "new and improved online marketplace platform allows sellers to be paid instantly upon every successful order fulfilment".
In the post, Mr Ong said: "To show its commitment in supporting local businesses, Naiise is extending an exclusive invitation for merchants, which includes waiver of listing fees and reduced last mile delivery rates, till 31st December 2021."
Naiise said it will gradually introduce over 500 merchants and debut new brands on the platform, including "more hyper-local, eco-friendly and independent international brands".
Along with a new incubator model for up-and-coming designers, "buy now pay later" concepts are also in the works.
Speaking to ST, Mr Ong said he had been “on the lookout for good quality companies that have potential to scale, and this was one of the companies I was interested in”.
Asked about who is running the company, he replied: "New team, new ownership."
While he acknowledged that it will take time to restore merchant’s confidence following the company’s liquidation earlier this year, the response has been positive so far.
“Quite a few of the old vendors have signed up, even those that were owed money... It’s also testament to the community and the niche Naiise has built, that people recognise the value of coming back onto the platform, recognising there are unique buyers who would shop on it.”
He added: “We need to support these local companies and industries, because if we don’t, what will be left of the retail landscape?
"Otherwise, if and when the pandemic blows over, only the very big companies will survive, and none of the little guys are going to be around.”
He had urged earlier, in Naiise’s post: “I encourage consumers to support these local designers, creatives and artisans through this difficult period and beyond.”
Among Naiise’s former vendors that have joined its new platform is home-grown brand Wet Tee Shirt, which sells T-shirts with designs firmly branded with local humour.
Its parent company Wet Designs was among the largest creditors, and was owed around $70,000 by the time Naiise went into liquidation.
The firm’s managing director, Mr Nicholas Chan, said he wanted to continue supporting the retailer, which supports local brands.
“We’ve been working with Naiise since 2015 and they were very open with us all along,” he said.
“We know that they didn’t deliberately take our money and run, it was just bad management.”