Customers, staff voice concern over Sasa's exit

Sasa's store at Junction 8 in Bishan. The Hong Kong cosmetics retailer had announced on Monday that it would shut down all 22 outlets in Singapore, a move that is likely to affect about 170 workers. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Sasa's store at Junction 8 in Bishan. The Hong Kong cosmetics retailer had announced on Monday that it would shut down all 22 outlets in Singapore, a move that is likely to affect about 170 workers. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Workers await more info, say no direct word from management while union offers help

The news of cosmetics giant Sasa's decision to pull out of the Singapore market has taken its workers and customers here by surprise.

Shop staff interviewed yesterday said they learnt of the exit from social media posts and media reports published the previous evening.

They also said Sasa's management had not said anything about the closure to them, whether they are being retrenched or when the outlets will pull down the shutters for good.

The Hong Kong cosmetics retailer, which opened its first Singapore store in 1997, had announced on Monday that it would shut down all 22 outlets in Singapore, a move that is likely to affect about 170 workers.

It said its decision was formed by its shops here recording losses for six years in a row despite its efforts to turn the business around.

A Sasa employee at its shop in central Singapore, who wanted to be known only as Carla, said she got the news from a Facebook post on Monday evening.

"We were not informed by our management prior to the closure announcement. I've been working at Sasa for three years and I have not made any employment plans as I'm still waiting for more information from the management," she said.

Another employee, who works at an outlet in north-east Singapore, said friends had alerted her to the news reports.

"I've been working at Sasa for close to four years. We are still conducting operations as per normal. I've not noticed a fall in business recently," she added.

CLIENTELE AND MARKETING

Sasa caters to a mass consumer base. Due to the store layout and product marketing, customers may not have as pleasant an experience as at other retail outlets.

MS SARAH LIM, a retail expert who used to lecture on retail and consumer behaviour.

 
 
 
 

Meanwhile, the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers' Union (SMMWU) said yesterday it has contacted some of the staff who are general branch members of the union.

Its deputy secretary-general, Mr Elvin Lee, said the union will offer help to all affected workers to find alternative jobs.

It will give union members financial aid if needed, he said. Sasa is not unionised but some of its workers are general branch members of the SMMWU.

Mr Lee also said some managers had been told that Sasa shops in Singapore will close by March 31 next year, and workers will be given two weeks' salary per year of service as retrenchment benefits.

A tripartite advisory on responsible retrenchment encourages companies to pay retrenchment benefits of between two weeks' and a month's salary per year of service, depending on the company's financial position and the industry norm.

Customers like finance manager Liz Foo were taken aback by the news. Said the 28-year-old: "I've been shopping at Sasa for a few years because it allows customers to test the products to ensure they suit our skin tone.

"Online shopping is not as fulfilling because cosmetics need to be tried and tested before buying."

Financial executive Serene Wan, 42, said Sasa's Japanese and Taiwanese products were what drew her to its outlets. "Sasa is like a household name and its closing down is a surprise."

Retail experts such as retired senior polytechnic lecturer Sarah Lim said the writing was on the wall.

Sasa's lack of a target audience is one possible reason for its gradual revenue decline, said the former lecturer on retail and consumer behaviour.

"Sasa caters to a mass consumer base. Due to the store layout and product marketing, customers may not have as pleasant an experience as at other retail outlets."

It may also have lost consumers to retailers like Sephora, which provides a unique and avant-garde shopping experience, she added.

Asked by The Straits Times when the retailer’s last day of operations in Singapore would be or if staff would be compensated for its shops’ closure, Sasa said on Wednesday that it had no further comments.

On when Sasa formally informed staff regarding the closing of outlets here, the retailer said the closure was announced on Monday and did not elaborate further.

- Additional reporting by Joanna Seow

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'Customers, staff voice concern over Sasa's exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe