End of Robinsons

COVID-19 has claimed another victim. It’s not a person but the iconic Robinsons department store in Singapore.

When news broke this morning, social media was all abuzz with people lamenting the end of the 162-year-old retail institution. I was saddened too as it’s a place that I’ve visited since my schooldays.

The deaprtment store is synonymous with quality products and offering great service by long-serving staff. Its regular “The sale worth waiting for” sales never fail to pull in the crowd. I know of people who take leave just to grab the sales items. And there are even those who spend thousands to snag a free mobile device.

Why close?

If it’s so popular, how then did it reach this state, you may ask. Well, the pandemic definitely played a major part — no tourists, people losing job or taking pay cuts, safe management measures are just a few key reasons.

Admittedly, Robinsons also carries a range of products that is way beyond my means in my younger days. And I’m sure the products are still more pricey for this current generation of youngsters who are more accustomed to buying more affodable products online.

With the pandemic, e-commerce has boomed. Amazon, Aliexpress, Lazada, Qoo10, and Shopee are packed with products available at competitive prices. Consumers get to see which products are popular, how many are being sold, and the all-important customer review and rating.

Plus, the platforms offers the convenience of ordering from the bed or in a park and having the products delivered for as quickly as the next day.

Robinsons’ online presence becomes a work in progress

The sad thing is that even going online is not a viable option to keep Robinsons afloat.

“In our experience, the online model is not one that works for department stores, due to individual brands wanting to maintain brand ownership online, as well as stiff competition from full-fledged e-commerce sites,” a spokesperson told CNA.

More closures ahead?

Robinsons is not the first and neither will it be the last of the retail giants to be dealt the death knell.

With a new normal dawning, more and more may have to transform to a onsite-online business, go online completely, or risk closing shop for good.

Seeing parts of our growing up years disappear is a tough pill to swallow but it’s a sad reality that all of us have to face.

The crowd headed to the Heeren outlet after hearing about the impending closure

If it’s any consolation, crowds headed to the two outlets after hearing the news of the closure. If only they were out in force throughout the year, Robinsons may then have a fighting chance of surviving the downturn.

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