Robinsons' exit a strong signal to firms to transform: Josephine Teo

Robinsons is liquidating its two department stores at The Heeren and Raffles City Shopping Centre.
Robinsons is liquidating its two department stores at The Heeren and Raffles City Shopping Centre.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

The closure of the two remaining Robinsons department stores here is a "strong signal" that companies will have to continue to transform to meet the changing needs of consumers, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday.

Mrs Teo, who was on a visit to precision engineering company 3D Metalforge, a local small and medium-sized enterprise, was responding to questions from reporters about the news of Robinsons' exit from Singapore's physical retail scene.

"I must say, for me personally, I certainly feel a sense of loss because Robinsons has been part of our growing up years, it is so much a part of Singapore's retail landscape," she said.

"I am sure many people, many Singaporeans, feel likewise."

Mrs Teo noted, however, that the younger generation may feel differently about this closure as they are more likely to be familiar with e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee.

"It does signal very strongly that our industries are going to continue to have to transform," she added. "The landscape of consumers, the landscape of businesses, is not going to stay static. If nothing else, Covid-19 has accelerated all of the transformation."

And while some retailers and businesses have been forced to shutter during this period, others have succeeded in transforming their business and are seeing growth potential, such as SK Jewellery, said Mrs Teo.

Earlier this month, she visited the home-grown jewellery retailer's headquarters in Changi Business Park with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing to find out more about the company's efforts to boost its business online.

Yesterday, Mrs Teo said SK Jewellery is an example of a retailer that has continued to make itself relevant in the face of changing consumer behaviour.

"This is going to be the ongoing story of our economy. Businesses will have to transform and, along with them, their employees. But what emerges potentially could be a more exciting landscape," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2020, with the headline 'Icon's exit a strong signal to firms to transform: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe