SINGAPORE - Customers rushed to make payment for their purchases at Robinsons on Saturday (Jan 9) afternoon, when the iconic retailer announced in-store that the Raffles City outlet, its last, would close by 3pm.
The early closure came as a surprise to many shoppers as liquidator KordaMentha had earlier said only that the department store would close by Jan 10.
On Saturday, a KordaMentha spokesman told The Straits Times that the store was closing earlier as all the stock had been sold.
When The Straits Times visited the store at 1pm, there were about 20 people on each floor.
Retiree Koh Swee Gek, 80, was among the shoppers rummaging through the remaining items.
It was the third time that she had visited the Raffles City outlet in the past week, having been there on Monday and Friday.
Ms Koh has fond memories of the store, having often walked past its Raffles Place building on her way to work in the 1970s. She was then a dental staff nurse at the now-demolished Peck Seah Primary School in Telok Ayer.
"I would make a detour and walk past Robinsons just to see what was in the window displays," said Ms Koh, who was heartbroken about the 162-year-old store's closure.
Robinsons had announced on Oct 30 last year the closure of its last two outlets here, saying the decision to liquidate was prompted by a range of factors, including changing consumer tastes and cost pressures such as rent. Its outlet at The Heeren in Orchard Road was closed on Dec 16.
Ms Koh sang praises of the staff who served their customers thoughtfully throughout, right up to the closure.
One staff member, whom she remembered as Theresa, had recommended to Ms Koh some lipsticks based on her complexion and helped her choose the shades on Friday.
"My hands shake sometimes because I'm old but she helped me open every lipstick I wanted to try," she added.
Another customer, Mr Soo Tat Yan, 65, had visited the store shortly after spending his stay-home notice at the nearby Swissotel the Stamford.
He had not intended to make one last visit on Saturday but decided to take a look as it was raining outside.
"When I was 16, I bought my first wallet with my own money from the Robinsons building at Raffles Place after I landed my first job," said the consultant, who works in Indonesia.
Although it was the last day of operation for the store, the staff were upbeat, briskly going about their jobs and serving customers until the last one left at 3.57pm.
"I'm actually relieved that we managed to sell everything, even most of the fixtures," said a sales supervisor who wanted to be known only as Ms Nurul.
This was the 27-year-old's first retail job and she had been with the company for eight years.
She is also grateful to the liquidators, who reassured her and the remaining employees that they were "one of the top" priorities among the unsecured creditors.
"I feel lucky that we were able to sell everything so the company can clear its debts," she said.
She added that the staff would have Christmas parties in good years, and she would still try to meet her colleagues to celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali together.
Security guard Andy Loh, 48, said he would miss the people too.
Mr Loh, who is with security company FSI, has worked shifts at Robinsons for six years.
When he first heard that Robinsons was closing, he asked his company to arrange his shifts to be with the retailer until its last day.
Recounting the positive work culture at Robinsons, Mr Loh said: "Even when we were very busy during events, the managers would buy us food. When customers complained, they would listen to the staff instead of just taking the customer's side."
When asked about his favourite memories with the store, he said: "When you stepped into Robinsons, every minute, every second was a good experience. I never thought it would end."