SINGAPORE - British fashion brands Topshop and Topman will close their last outlet here next Thursday (Sept 17) and instead go online, with retail experts saying that more brands might follow suit.
On Friday (Sept 11), Topshop's and Topman's brand manager here Wing Tai Retail confirmed the closure of the VivoCity outlet, and said that its focus for the two brands will be online.
Topshop and Topman have been in Singapore for two decades, with the first store at Wisma Atria in Orchard Road in 2000.
A Wing Tai Retail spokesman said that the lease of the brands' shop at VivoCity has ended, and that Wing Tai will be focusing on its omnichannel retail strategy - which involves both physical and online sales channels - to better meet changing consumer preferences.
Besides Topshop and Topman, Wing Tai Retail also manages brands like Adidas, G2000, Dorothy Perkins and Uniqlo in Singapore.
The spokesman said that the closure is part of Wing Tai's business review of its brands portfolio to fine-tune its distribution strategy, adding that both brands continue to be popular in Malaysia.
Several sale signs were seen at Topshop's and Topman's VivoCity outlet on Friday, with a buy two get one free deal available for a "limited time only".
The departure of Topshop and Topman is "a symptom of the larger malaise that has afflicted many formats in the brick and mortar retail industry", said Dr Seshan Ramaswami, Associate Professor of marketing education at the Singapore Management University. He noted that this covers department stores, clothing stores, toy stores, bookstores and malls.
"The expiry of the lease is likely just the catalyst."
He added that with the likelihood of extremely slow growth for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, committing to a lease renewal is probably not easy to justify.
Dr Ramaswami warned that other brands might similarly do away with a physical presence and focus on online sales.
"That strong brands like Topshop and Topman with a fairly big following in Singapore would move online is a leading indicator for the fortunes of other store brands which may have a weaker franchise," he said.
Nanyang Polytechnic School of Business Management director Esther Ho said that brands with only one or two outlets would not benefit from economies of scale, and that moving online might help to cut the strain on resources amidst the pandemic.
"The footfall in malls has taken a hit, so it is timely for businesses to try scaling up their online sales, without concurrently suffering a drain of their resources in physical stores," said Ms Ho.
However, she did not rule out the return of physical Topshop and Topman outlets post Covid-19.
"There is a sense that having a dual presence helps to offer some visibility in the market," she said.
Topshop and Topman will also likely remain popular here, said Dr Ramaswami.
"That the brands are going to continue to be sold online does indicate that they are still perceived to have a sizeable audience in Singapore," he said.
In July, it was reported that Topshop was closing its last store in Hong Kong, a 14,000 sq feet, two-storey store in Central.
Like the brand's move in Singapore, Topshop products will continue to be available online for customers in the territory.