Crabtree and Evelyn to shut all but one store globally in move to online-only business

Crabtree and Evelyn filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada in December amid "significant losses" that it attributed to changing consumer demand. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Bath and body products retailer Crabtree and Evelyn will be shutting its 12 stores here in the coming months as it moves its operations online, with some outlets already emptied of goods.

The Britain-based company filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada in December amid "significant losses" that it attributed to changing consumer demand, the rise of e-commerce and long-term declines in traditional retail traffic, according to Canadian news reports.

The Straits Times understands that Crabtree and Evelyn is moving its business fully online, and that all physical stores will be closing in phases over the next few months save for a new retail concept store in the London borough of Islington.

The firm declined to comment when contacted.

Long queues were seen at its in-store closing down sales in Singapore during the Christmas period, with discounts of up to 70 per cent on items like gift sets and skincare products.

Its stores at Suntec City and Plaza Singapura were not open when The Straits Times visited on Wednesday (Jan 2) and Thursday, while outlets at Raffles City, Ngee Ann City, Paragon and VivoCity still had items for sale on half-empty shelves.

ST understands that the brand's VIP membership programme ceased on Dec 31, and a new programme is being created for customers of the e-commerce site.

All existing points must be redeemed and vouchers used by Jan 31.

Some customers complained on Crabtree and Evelyn's Singapore Facebook page that they are left with hundreds of dollars worth of vouchers, as they cannot be used on discounted items.

ST understands that non-sale products will be made available from Jan 9 to Jan 31 at the Crabtree and Evelyn Paragon and Ngee Ann City stores for voucher use, while stocks last.

Crabtree and Evelyn, founded in the United States in 1972, is currently owned by Hong Kong investment holding company Nan Hai Corporation.

According to Nan Hai's 2018 interim report, Crabtree and Evelyn is investing in optimising its supply chain and research and development, with 58 new products expected to be launched this year.

It is also developing its online sales platforms, with e-commerce sites launched in countries such as Australia, Singapore and Malaysia as of last year.

Nan Hai did not respond to queries on Crabtree and Evelyn's reported bankruptcy protection filing in Canada or the number of layoffs associated with the brand's move away from brick-and-mortar.

Crabtree and Evelyn had previously filed for bankruptcy protection in the US and closed some of its stores there in 2009, when the company was owned by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, a Malaysian multinational company.

Housewife Lillian Loh, who bought two bath and skincare gift sets from the Ngee Ann City outlet on Thursday, said she was sad to see the stores go.

"They have the best hand creams and soap. At least I can still buy them online," said Ms Loh, 34.

Logistics manager Monica Tan, however, feels that the brand has a ways to go if it is to succeed as an e-commerce retailer.

Ms Tan, who placed an order on its website for two gift boxes on Dec 26 and paid $12 for next-day delivery, said she has yet to receive the items.

She said that she did not receive any notification of a delay and has had difficulty contacting customer service through its hotline and e-mail.

Her request for a refund has also been denied, as the order has been collected by the courier company, but no details were provided on when the delivery would be made.

"Such handling by Crabtree and Evelyn is frustrating. They are moving towards an online business, but their logistics handling is a mess," said Ms Tan, 42.

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