Robinsons closing a loss, but also a reminder that companies need to continue 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

SINGAPORE - 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, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Friday (Oct 30).

Mrs Teo, who was on a visit to precision engineering company 3D Metalforge, a local small to 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's so much a part of Singapore's retail landscape," she said.

"I'm sure many people, many Singaporeans, feel likewise," she added.

Mrs Teo, however, noted that the younger generation may feel differently about this closure, as they are more likely to be familiar with e-commerce platforms like 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 are 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, such as SK Jewellery, have succeeded in transforming their business and are seeing growth potential, said Mrs Teo.

Earlier this month, Mrs Teo 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.

On Friday, 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. Business will have to transform, and along with them, their employees. But what emerges potentially could be a more exciting landscape," she said.