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.

Ruten Japan offers free shipping to 13 countries

Sixty million Japanese products. Available in 13 countries outside Japan. Free shipping for orders above U$50. This is a no-brainer. If you’ve missed travelling to Japan, it’s time to head to Ruten Japan.

For the uninitiated, Ruten Japan is a leading online shopping platform in Japan. And the e-commerce site has just opened up to the rest of the world — 13 countries to be precise, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

Ruten Japan carries a massive 60 million products, including most of the popular products that we buy from our Japan sojourns. Royce chocolates, Ishiya Confectionary white chocolate, coffee jelly — you name it and it’s likely to be there.

Better yet, a quick check on Royce’s potato chip chocolate showed a price of US$9.04 (S$12.36). This is an 18 percent savings from buying from Royce’s outlet in Singapore where a similar pack costs S$15.

And if you say “Wait, what about shipping cost?” Every order above US$50 comes with free shipping. Delivery is expected to be about seven working days later.

So, if you’ve been missing Japan and things Japanese dearly, you can do the next best thing — hop on to Ruten Japan and relive your memories.

Discover your fashion style

If you’ve been wondering where you can get that jacket that the actress wore, look no further because help is at hand. Check out StyleCrush, which has just been rolled out in Singapore.

StyleCrush is a style discovery platform that uses AI technology to let you find clothes and fashion items, including shoes and bags, that caught your attention.

All you need to do is to upload an image or paste a link of the item that you’re looking for and the AI system will connect you to the relevant shopping malls where you can purchase the products conveniently.

You can also create a wish list of the fashion products discovered through the search and place them in an album. It’s like a curation of your tastes where you can come back to and browse at a later date.

The platform is developed by Korea’s Odd Concepts, which is collaborating with Suggesty and Sta1 of Korea, and Qoo10 of Singapore to provide you with a wide variety of fashion styles.

Suggesty is an online mall selling AI-curated Korean designer brands internationally and will share its database and apparels with StyleCrush. Sta1 has more than one million products from over 6,000 brands.

Odd Concepts will work with more fashion and apparel e-commerce partners in Singapore and ASEAN countries to provide consumers with access to a greater variety of fashion styles.

Do check out StyleCrush the next time a fashion item catches your eye.

Too easy a buy from Ezbuy!

The circuit breaker period has just ended, and as we enter Phase 1, many shops and businesses have still not been given the green light to reopen. The lack of outdoor shopping, coupled with the fact that many of us are staying off, has resulted in, let’s say, many unnecessary online shopping sprees. I personally have started using Ezbuy once more for my shopping sprees and in today’s article, I’d like to discuss some of the pros and cons on getting items via this platform.

Fantastic prices on Ezbuy

Pros –

  1. It’s an English Taobao site! Taobao is known for its unbeatable deals, and while Ezbuy does not necessarily have the same kind of deals, it has quite frequent deals compared to the likes of Amazon.sg, Shopee and Qoo10 (all still good sites too). For the same chair I got on Qoo10 at $24.90, one can get the chair at $12 on Ezbuy. That’s half the price! I’ll talk about shipping cost later.
  2. Ezbuy Prime gives you the option of getting deliveries to Singapore for $2.99 per checked-out cart. Membership is $99 a year, but if you’re looking to buy big ticket items (sofas/cupboards/bed frames), a $99 shipping fee is honestly quite low. If you’re sharing the account with a family member, it is even more worth-it. Considering that shipment is from China, and Ezbuy staff consolidate and ship all your items together, the subsequent $2.99 is incredibly low.
  3. You are also able to buy items from local stores and from the US. Items that are not available in Singapore can be easily found on the US site as well. Looking for Oreo cereals? Try Ezbuy!
  4. Collection of items is easy as well, with the Ezbuy van frequently spotted around the estates across Singapore. Once your parcel has reached Singapore, you’ll be notified to arrange for delivery – and you can get your parcel as early as two days from the time it reaches Singapore. Do note that the Ezbuy van only comes at specific times, so be sure to be at the collection spot on time!

Cons –

  1. Duration of delivery can be long. When you purchase an item on Ezbuy, Ezbuy sends out the order to each of the merchants you buy from. All your items are then consolidated and sent over in a shipment – either air or sea. Lighter items tend to be flown in while bulkier items come in by sea (hence the longer delivery). I’ve had orders cancelled because of the lack of merchant response, and it was disappointing – but not something Ezbuy could handle.
  2. Quality check and returns are done by Ezbuy, but unobvious errors (like a small stain on a corner of a shirt) can go missed. An aftersales ticket can be created if returns are necessary – but you can imagine the long refund process considering that you’re going through a middleman.

If you’re looking for fantastic deals, and do are not worried about delivery duration, why not try Ezbuy! My experience with them is pretty good and I’ll gladly recommend this shopping platform. Just.. try not to buy too much 😉

Rating: 4/5

Three online grocery stores to tide over this Circuit Breaker season! (great price, quality and speed!)

The Circuit Breaker measures are taking Singapore by storm, with a new law implemented today which prevents any form of social gathering (if the members of the party are not from the same household) in both public and private areas. While these measures still allow individuals to head out to buy groceries and food, many have turned to get their groceries online – but many are facing delivery slots limitation – so why not try other online stores during this period?

Here are three online grocery sites I’d recommend if you’re in search for options:

Amazon.sg + Prime now

If you have an Amazon prime account, delivery is free on the Amazon.sg site as well as through the Prime Now app. Otherwise, delivery is free on purchases that are more than $40.

One can easily find groceries on Amazon.sg (less fresh food and frozen food), and the user interface makes purchasing of items easy! For fresh and frozen food that require refrigeration, you will have to purchase these items via the Prime now app which allows delivery as soon as two hours. However, delivery slots are currently pretty limited and some items may be out of stock so you’ve got to try your luck there.

I’ve got to say that Amazon has pretty amazing service and the delivery guys are very friendly! Amazon.sg is one of my most go-to sites for groceries!

FoodXervices Inc

This company has served the F&B industry for more than 80 years, as a food distributor that serves the likes of large hotels and restaurants. They have just made their wholesale online store for consumers and this allows consumers to buy many items in bulk (think Costco!) – on top of that, they also provide free delivery on purchases >$60. Delivery slots are also ample. Delivery is the next working day for orders made before 4.30pm on weekdays (and before 12 noon on Saturdays), and two working days for orders otherwise. My family made an order (>$60) after 4.30pm on a weekday and our delivery slot was two working days later – pretty impressed with the slots availability!

Most products are sold in bulk, but consumers have the option of selecting smaller quantities for some products. I’d highly recommend this site for those looking to buy bulk items at a lower cost! They carry many brands and have ample stock on paper products and sanitizers too!

OpenTaste

Mainly for fresh fruits and vegetables, OpenTaste has a wide range of options that are good for families. I’ve ordered from the online store in the past and the items were fresh and delivered on time. This online farmer’s market is a platform where consumers like us can purchase a wide range of farm-fresh products with OpenTaste’s partners (more than 200 of them).

It’s also nice to have bulk purchase discounts, especially if you’re feeding a large family! Fruits also make great snacks – you’ll probably need a lot more now that home-based learning and working from home arrangements are in-force.

I’ve got to say, though, that it is harder to qualify for free delivery (minimum purchase of $150) but if you’re looking to buy from this site on a more regular basis, or if you’re looking to buy more items at once, you can try out OpenTaste premium where an order of $49 and above qualifies for free delivery (subject to a monthly membership fee).

Thoughts

There are many online groceries stores at the moment, and the three I’ve mentioned here are those that I’ve tried and I’d recommend to others as well because of their service, quality and price.

Let’s all help flatten the curve during this season and refrain from heading out yeah!

Eating your way through Queen Victoria Market

The middle of the city of Melbourne sits Queen Victoria Market – a market that has been in operation since 1878! This attraction not only has an abundance of stalls selling fresh produce, but also specialty products and cafes that are peppered within the 7-hectare land! Dubbed as the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, Queen Victoria Market is a must-visit for locals and tourists alike.

Queen Victoria Market has various sections, and one of them is the specialty section that sells bags, shoes, road signs (which can also be customized), toys, and more! Souvenirs sold in this section are also really affordable, with t-shirts (the kind that screams ‘I’m a tourist’) going as low as AUD$5. Items here are very unique, but there was a shop that stood out – something that I’ve yet to see in other touristy markets globally – this store sold large images of one’s eyes. I don’t have an image of the store, but here’s the link to the shop, Iris Photo! In this store, one can get your iris taken and when magnified, it makes a really beautiful piece of art.

Another section of the market has a huge range of fresh produce – from organic vegetables to other kinds of fruits and vegetables, this market is a haven for those in search of fresh local produce. Produce here are reasonably-priced, and can be bought by box as well. My family bought a box of 10 mangoes on our last day in Melbourne, and it came in a box that was easy to pack.

In another area of the market lies the poultry and seafood section that sells a wide range of meats and seafood. Many purchase meats for home-cooking, and some of the stalls sell cooked seafood that can be purchased by weight. A highlight of this section (for me) is that one can easily buy a dozen oysters that can be eaten on the spot! A dozen oysters can cost around AUD$18, but do note that you CAN buy half a dozen oysters if you ask the stall holder! The oysters here are so fresh, sweet and juicy that I came back again for another fix of oysters.

Fresh Oysters

While researching on nice places to have coffee around the Melbourne city centre, I read a review that recommended Market Lane Coffee – a small bistro that sold coffee and pastries. I decided to visit it as I saw a long queue at the store (yes, I’m one of those that follows the crowd!) There, I ordered the almond crossaint, danish pastry, a latte and a cappuccino. If you are heading there, I would certainly recommend the almond crossaint and the cappuccino – a light, fluffy pastry with a very solid nutty filling that goes extremely well with a creamy coffee!

Thoughts

I’ve visited Melbourne City a total of three times over the recent years, and I’ve always made it a point to visit the Queen Victoria Market as it never fails to surprise me with local goodies and produce. Go take a look at this gem in the heart of the city!

Tip: If you’re looking to purchase fresh produce at a lower cost, visit the stalls during the closing hours as they tend to drop their prices at the end of the day!

Jewel a gem even during this period!

COVID-19 is sweeping the globe by storm, and many retailers are reeling from the effects of a drop in consumer spending as a result of a reduction of footfall in malls.

View of Jewel at night

Changi Airport’s Jewel, which was packed during its opening last year, was pretty quiet last night. Considering that it is the school holidays in Singapore, this is definitely not the norm or what its tenants had hoped for. Various travel restrictions imposed on the border have also affected the number of incoming passengers.

Most shops were opened but some had revised hours while others remained close during this period.

The Apple store was closed and will remain so until further notice. Lavender, a Malaysian bakery in Basement 2, also announced that it was closed till April 1, after the lifting of the ban from Malaysia on March 31. The Body Shop was closed when we walked past around 930pm though official hours stated that it closes at 10pm.

Notice of closure of Lavender

These closures aside, Jewel is still an incredibly attractive mall. I encourage locals to visit and support the shops during this period. Some of the attractions worth visiting include Canopy Park, Canopy Bridge, Sky nets (bouncing and walking), Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze, and Changi Experience Studio.

During my visit yesterday, we explored the Canopy Park which links many of the attractions. It has a Topiary Walk which displays animals in the form of floral and fauna, foggy bowls (the mist wasn’t turned on for health safety reasons I think), and Discovery Slide (only one was open). These attractions are free to access from now till March 31. On top of that, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Jewel from here!

Let’s support our local malls during this period, but please practise social responsibility! It doesn’t hurt that Jewel provides free three-hour parking (with a minimum spend of $10 in a single receipt)!

Save more with ShopBack!

If you are an avid online shopper, you may have heard of ShopBack which provides consumers like us a chance to save more money through cash back from purchases. I was pretty sceptical about how it worked initially but having used it for a couple of months, I have seen its benefits through the actual cash I’ve received. 

There are a couple of ways to use ShopBack – via ShopBack website (on desktop), the ShopBack mobile application or the ShopBack add-on on Google Chrome (on desktop). To use it, one must click on the desired merchant via the ShopBack website or mobile application in order for the transaction to be tracked. For the Chrome add-on option, if Chrome detects that you are at a merchant site that is part of the ShopBack program, it will notify you and you can activate the cash back tracking from there directly without having to click through the ShopBack website. 

ShopBack Add-On

Every merchant listed on ShopBack will have a different percentage of cash back (i.e. 5.5% for Klook transactions, 6% for Expedia hotel transactions) or a fixed value per transaction (i.e. $5 for Airbnb). Essentially, as long as your cash back is tracked via the mentioned methods above, you will get the cash back equivalent once the transaction is confirmed by the merchant. Do note, however, that transactions can take up to 90 days for confirmation by merchants (for hotel bookings, confirmation will only be done after your visit). 

ShopBack Merchants

So, I’ve covered the online shopping portion, but what about the other option, ShopBack Go? 

ShopBack Go works in a different way and also provides cash back for consumers. Once you have linked your desired credit card to your ShopBack account, it will automatically track your cash back for you should they detect that you’ve made a transaction with a partner merchant. I experienced it myself when ordering a cup of coffee from Spinelli and paid for it with the credit card I linked to ShopBack (I didn’t realize that Spinelli was a partner). Upon payment, I received a notification via the ShopBack mobile app to inform me that my transaction was tracked. While it was just a small amount, I still appreciated the savings I had! 

Shopback Go Merchants

Once you have more than $10 accumulated from your confirmed ShopBack transactions, you will be able to retrieve the amount by linking it to your local bank account. Cash withdrawal will take a couple of days, but fret not, the money does indeed come in. 

ShopBack Transactions Tracking

If you are still sceptical about it and wonder why such a site exists, you are not alone. I read up on how ShopBack and merchants benefited from this scheme and realized that merchants do not need to pay to get their site listed and will give ShopBack a cut of transactions. Through being listed under ShopBack, merchants will also gain publicity to consumers who use ShopBack. As such, it benefits both ShopBack and merchants, with consumers like us benefitting greatly from it.

So why not try it out? You can use my referral link here to get $5.