SINGAPORE - The news of cosmetic giant Sasa's decision to pull out of the Singapore market has taken its workers and customers here by surprise.
Shop staff interviewed on Tuesday (Dec 3) said they learnt about 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 shops 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 the decision was prompted by six years of losses by its shops here despite efforts to turn the business around.
A Sasa staff member 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 future employment plans as I'm still waiting for more information from the management," she said.
Another staff member, who works at an outlet in north-east Singapore, said friends had alerted her to the news reports.
"I have 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.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers' Union (SMMWU) said on Tuesday it has contacted some of the staff who are general branch members of the union.
Its deputy secretary-general Elvin Lee said the union will offer help to all affected workers to find alternative jobs and give union members financial help if they need it.
Sasa is not unionised but some of its workers are general branch members of the SMMWU.
Mr Lee said some managers had been told that Sasa shops in Singapore will close by March 31 next year, and staff 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.
A sales staff member at an outlet in the East, who declined to be named, said the closure would affect S Pass and employment pass holders the most.
The Philippine national, who is a Singapore permanent resident, said she had rejoined Sasa last month, having worked previously with the company for two years.
"We are looking forward to a meeting with our management and will weigh our options after that," she added.
Customers like finance manager Liz Foo were taken aback by the news too.
Said the 28-year-old: "I've been shopping at Sasa outlets for a few years because they allow 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 the Japanese and Taiwanese products at Sasa were what drew her to its outlets. "Sasa is like a household name and its closing down is a surprise."
Retails experts, like 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 Ms Lim, who previously lectured on retail and consumer behaviour.
"Sasa cater to a mass consumer base. Due to the store layout and product marketing, customers may not have as pleasant an experience as they would at other retail outlets."
It may have lost consumers to retailers like Sephora, which she said provides a unique and avant-garde shopping experience.
Sasa had said its latest decision is part of its strategy to focus on its core markets: Hong Kong and China.
Hong Kong has been hit by a drastic decline in tourists from the mainland, it noted.
On the other hand, it will continue to expand in China and accelerate the development of its e-commerce business, the company had said.
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