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A Year Of Exits: 6 Homegrown And International Chains We Had To Bid Farewell To In 2020

2020 has undoubtedly been a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides the virus’ undeniable impact on individuals and society, it has also taken a huge toll on many businesses.

Lockdowns and safe distancing measures have resulted in a significant decrease in businesses’ footfall, translating to lower profits.

Businesses have had to quickly pivot or risk phasing out. Even so, factors like rental and manpower costs might continue to be a hindrance in business continuity plans.

As businesses brace themselves for an even longer struggle with Covid-19, Singaporeans have already bid farewell to these six homegrown and international chains:

1. Robinsons

robinsons businesses that closed 2020
Image Credit: The Edge Singapore

Founded in 1858, Robinsons is one of the oldest department stores in Singapore. Even though it has managed to weather through 162 years, Covid-19 proved too much to handle for the retail giant.

It was reported on October 30 that it would make its exit from Singapore for good, following losses in the recent years.

According to a report by Business Times, the department store had been chalking up at least six years of losses amid declining revenues.

Financial records show that the company recorded up to S$54.4 million in losses in 2018.

Its topline also shrunk, and it generated S$153.8 million in revenue in 2018, down from the S$257.3 million it made in 2014.

The brand’s decision to shutter its stores has left both customers and suppliers in the lurch, with customers unsure if orders will be fulfilled and suppliers worried that they may never get paid their sales proceeds.

Some consignment suppliers have said they are being owed sales proceeds made in the past few months.

On November 19, it was reported that Robinsons owes a total of 442 creditors at least S$31.7 million.

Among the 442 creditors listed are mattress companies such as Simmons, Sealy, Serta and Tempur.

Also on the list are major apparel, fashion and beauty brands such as adidas, Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden, Clarins, Chanel and LVMH.

2. Bakerzin

bakerzin businesses that closed 2020
Image Credit: Gardens By The Bay

Founded in 1998, Bakerzin describes itself as “one of Singapore’s most well-loved artisan dessert cafes”.

It was reported on October 9 that the F&B establishment had closed all five of its outlets islandwide, marking its exit in Singapore.

Bakerzin did not issue any statement on this closure on its Facebook page (its last post was dated on 30 September).

However, on the morning of October 5, it issued notice of a creditor’s meeting for the purpose of winding up.

In a 2017 interview with Vulcan Post, Bakerzin founder Daniel Tay shared that the business did really well, and the company’s annual turnover was approximately S$13 million to S$14 million.

However, increasing rentals began eating into profits and sales were no longer substantial enough to cover rentals, thereby prompting its closure that could have also been impacted by Covid-19.

3. Sportslink

sportslink businesses that closed 2020
Image Credit: Singapore Service

This June, homegrown sports retail chain Sportslink went into liquidation.

Sportslink first started out as a single store — Sports Interlink in Queensway Shopping Centre.

It was founded in 1983 by the late Lim Kau Tee, and was only registered as Sportslink four years later. Sports Link Pte Ltd (SLH) was later registered in 1994.

It started extending its reach to suburban malls in 1995 and rapidly grew in Singapore. At its peak in 2015, it had 35 outlets islandwide.

However, it began facing financial woes.

According to its liquidator, Sportslink owed a number of creditors as well as a month’s salary to employees. In total, its debts amounted to at least S$3.4 million.

One of its creditors was Adidas Singapore, which was also its supplier.

On June 9, Adidas Singapore had filed an application to the High Court for the winding up of Sportslink. The latter had owed Adidas Singapore S$1.3 million in overdue trade payables since April 2018.

According to an affidavit by an Adidas Singapore director, Sportslink partially repaid the debt and previously agreed to a repayment plan, but did not follow through with it.

By November last year, Sportslink owed Adidas about S$991,000.

The biggest creditor however, was a Malaysian sports vendor for Brooks products, who was owed S$1.2 million.

4. Topshop And Topman

topshop businesses that closed 2020
Image Credit: Retail News Asia

On September 11, British fashion brands Topshop and Topman’s brand manager, Wing Tai Retail, confirmed the closure of its Vivocity outlet.

The Vivocity outlet, which is its last in Singapore, was officially closed on September 17.

At its peak, the brand owned ten brick-and-mortar stores in Singapore. Most of its stores were located in major shopping malls, including ION Orchard, Raffles City and Vivocity.

Additionally, Topshop Knightsbridge on Orchard Road was the brand’s largest branch outside of the US and the UK.

5. Esprit

espirt businesses that closed 2020
Image Credit: Retail Detail

Hong Kong-based fashion retailer Esprit has closed all of its Asia stores outside of mainland China, as it grapples with the impacts of Covid-19.

By June 30, it closed 56 outlets across Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. It also winded up its business in China.

In Singapore, the fashion retailer had 11 stores including at ION Orchard, Paragon, Suntec City and Jewel Changi Airport.

According to InsideRetail Asia, Esprit’s Asia store sales had fallen by 48.7 per cent over nine months, then dropped further to 61.3 per cent from March 2020.

In the nine months, the 56 stores contributed around US$34.4 million to the Esprit Group’s revenue — less than four per cent of its total turnover.

After the closures, Esprit plans to focus mostly on its European markets. However, it will still carry on with wholesale and licensing in Asia, and a joint venture in China.

6. STA Travel 

sta travel businesses that closed 2020
Image Credit: Goody Feed

STA Travel, a company focused on providing package holidays for students and young people, has closed down for good.

STA Travel is well-known amongst the local student population in Singapore, with outlets in NUS, SMU and NTU.

Many students would patronise these stores to book discounted flights or access special student deals when planning for their studies abroad.

On Facebook, the tour agency is listed as “permanently closed”, with its last post on the page dated August 19 this year.

STA Travel stopped operating after its parent company in Switzerland filed for insolvency in September.

The statement of the company’s assets and liabilities (as of September 10) showed that it owed S$439,000 to former employees.

Besides staff, The Straits Times said that as many as 682 customers who are listed as creditors are owed a total of S$635,000.

Audit firm Deloitte & Touche has issued a notice which listed the potential creditors on behalf of STA Travel last week.

According to this list, the biggest sum of S$84,088 is said to be owed to an individual.

More Closures To Come

Besides these large chains, many homegrown businesses have also winded up their operations.

According to a report by The Straits Times, business closures in the retail sector hit a 10-month high in September, with 457 companies calling it quits.

It is said that more closures are to be expected after relief, to protect qualifying commercial tenants unable to pay rent from eviction and hiked up interest rates, ends today (November 19).

Hence, it is important for business owners to be quick to pivot and improve on existing business strategies to make themselves relevant in the face of changing consumer behaviour.

Featured Image Credit: Coconuts.co / Daniel Food Diary / NUS Office of Campus Amenities / Apparel Resources / Mashable

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