Why Home-Fix, four firms shutting stores: Retail woes hard to fix

DFS Group, which has been selling liquor and tobacco at Changi Airport for 38 years, chose not to renew its lease in August, although its luxury concessions such as T Galleria by DFS Singapore in Scotts Road (above) will continue. Beauty retailer Sas
DFS Group, which has been selling liquor and tobacco at Changi Airport for 38 years, chose not to renew its lease in August, although its luxury concessions such as T Galleria by DFS Singapore in Scotts Road (above) will continue.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT
DFS Group, which has been selling liquor and tobacco at Changi Airport for 38 years, chose not to renew its lease in August, although its luxury concessions such as T Galleria by DFS Singapore in Scotts Road (above) will continue. Beauty retailer Sas
Beauty retailer Sasa (above) announced on Dec 2 that it was closing all 22 of its shops here after failing to turn its business around.ST PHOTO: JEREMY KWAN

Home-grown hardware chain Home-Fix closes its last store this week - an inglorious end to a high-profile business that once had 20 outlets here.

The firm, which has liabilities of about $19.8 million, will undergo debt restructuring, although its e-commerce site will remain operational for now.

Several other retail household names have been forced to close some, if not all, of their bricks-and-mortar shops, often due to a shift in consumer preference, including to online shopping.

Here are four retailers that faced challenging times in Singapore in recent years.

1 SASA

Hong Kong cosmetics retailer Sasa, the go-to place for make-up and personal care products in the early 2000s, found it could no longer continue its business in Singapore.

It announced on Dec 2 that it was closing all 22 of its Sasa International shops here after efforts to turn the business around could not stem the flow of red ink. Sasa, with its distinctive pink and white storefronts, opened its first store here in 1997, carrying around 700 brands of beauty items that were often heavily discounted to woo buyers.

The firm said it would focus on China and Hong Kong as well as its Malaysian outlets, which it said had greater growth potential.

2 DFS

DFS Group, which has been selling liquor and tobacco at Changi Airport for 38 years, chose not to renew its lease during a tender exercise that closed in August.

This means all its 18 duty-free stores will close next June when its lease expires, making way for South Korean company Lotte Duty Free.

DFS Group's luxury concessions at Changi, T Galleria by DFS Singapore in Scotts Road and its Singapore Cruise Centre business will operate as usual.

Group chairman and chief executive Ed Brennan said its decision to focus on luxury items is due to "changing regulations concerning the sale of liquor and tobacco, against a global context of geopolitical uncertainty".

3 MPH BOOKSTORES

MPH Bookstores announced in July that it was closing its last two shops here. The Raffles City outlet was shuttered on July 28 while the one at Parkway Parade closed on Sept 1.

Ms Ivy Tan, general manager of business development, cited unsustainable rents, but said she was "confident that bookstores will continue to be relevant".

She made good on her word, with MPH Bookstores opening a new concept store at SingPost Centre in Paya Lebar last month.

The self-styled "one-stop shop" also sells stationery, gifts, snacks and beverages, and offers services such as printing, computer rental and courier drop-off.

MPH Bookstores dominated the market here from the 1970s to 1990s before the arrival of other chains like Borders and Books Kinokuniya.

4 CRABTREE & EVELYN

Bath and body products retailer Crabtree & Evelyn moved its operations online in January, closing all its physical stores in phases except for a new retail concept store in London.

These closures included its 12 outlets here.

The Britain-based company cited changing consumer demand, the rise of e-commerce and long-term declines in traditional retail traffic.

It said it had made "significant losses" and filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada in December last year.

Several customers here complained that hundreds of dollars worth of vouchers they had accumulated could not be used on discounted items that were being sold off in the closing-down sales.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2019, with the headline 'Why Home-Fix, four firms shutting stores: Retail woes hard to fix'. Subscribe