Shoppers flock to Robinsons outlets after it announces store closures

Shoppers queueing to enter the Robinsons store at The Heeren on Oct 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Shoppers look for bargains at Robinsons at Raffles City on Oct 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Shoppers at the Robinsons store in Raffles City on Oct 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
A man poses for a photo outside the Robinsons store at The Heeren on Oct 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - After Robinsons announced on Friday morning (Oct 30) that it will close its last two stores here at The Heeren and Raffles City Shopping Centre, shoppers flocked to the outlets, with no certainty when the shutters will eventually come down.

Some shoppers like housewife Suyan Hong, 48, were "totally stunned" when told that Robinsons was in provisional liquidation.

"I knew that they were downsizing after they announced the closure of their (Jem) outlet. But usually when downsizing happens it's a cost-cutting measure that will help the business' margins improve. I didn't expect them to shut down," she said.

"I will miss the spontaneous experience of being able to find anything from clothes to homeware and children's items in one place at Robinsons. Robinsons is where I would go for last-minute shopping during the holiday season."

In the third quarter of this year, Robinsons closed its Jem outlet in Jurong East, which was opened in 2013.

A snaking queue moved briskly outside the Heeren store when The Straits Times visited it at about 3pm, with about 20 people safely distanced in line. As many as 25 people stood in line to try on clothes at one fitting room.

Over at Robinsons' Raffles City store, a queue of about 15 people could be seen at the cashier. A few customers were also seen with luggage at Raffles City Shopping Centre to stow away their department store purchases.

Many of the shoppers who thronged both outlets were middle-aged, some with their young children in tow. There were a number of senior citizens in the crowd as well.

Sales promoters from retailers including Hush Puppies and Samsonite were seen packing up their goods to send back to their warehouses after they were told to do so by the brands that hired them.

Some shoppers said they saw the writing on the wall for Robinsons.

Ms Michelle Khoo, 34, who works in the e-commerce industry, said department stores such as Robinsons are past their prime.

Shoppers queue to pay for their items at Robinsons Raffles City, Oct 30, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Robinsons pointed to more people turning to online shopping and lower demand for department stores for slumping retail sales, a problem exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Said Ms Khoo: "During our parents' time department stores would be the first places they would shop at. But now there are so many avenues, going online would be my first choice."

Still, she and her friends had gone down to Robinsons' Raffles City store to check out products on sale after they had lunch.

Another shopper, Mr Patrick Zheng, 35, was also not surprised Robinsons was closing.

"With tourists unable to come into the country, Orchard Road - where you find many department stores - has lost much of its footfall," said Mr Zheng, who works in the finance industry.

Some of the shoppers who turned up on Friday afternoon were shopping for holiday gifts.

Human resource manager Joyce Chan had 50 Thermos flasks in her shopping cart which she wanted to buy as gifts for her colleagues using her Robinsons vouchers.

Ms Chan said: "We are not sure when Robinsons will close down and... some retailers in the store are clearing out their stocks."

Robinsons said the appointed liquidators are in negotiations with the landlords but "we hope that the stores will stay open for the coming week".

But Ms Chan had to abort her plans after she found out that the vouchers can be used only if the purchase is at least double the value of the vouchers. So a $20 voucher can only be used for a minimum spend of $40.

Shoppers snap a memento selfie among empty shelves at Robinsons Raffles City. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Many shoppers like Mrs M. Sidhu, who is in her late 50s, were sad to learn of the closures. Mrs Sidhu said she has fond memories of Robinsons and it reminds her two adult children, who are in their 20s, of their childhood.

"Robinsons used to be at The Centrepoint with Marks & Spencer. During Christmas the whole area would be lit up and we would go shopping as a family," she said.

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