Robinsons Malaysia Shuts Down During COVID-19 After Years Of Losses

Over the weekend, many lined up for hours to get clearance offers from Robinsons, which will permanently close all remaining stores in Malaysia and Singapore.

He is a victim of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen a significant reduction in consumer demand this year.

The store at The Gardens Mall has been in operation for over 13 years, while the store at The Shoppes at Four Seasons Place opened just two years ago.

While Robinsons as a brand has suffered heavy losses over the past 6 years and COVID-19 was the last nail in the coffin, it had quite the survival record of the past 160 years.

It has weathered many storms of a financial crisis, World War II, the Great Depression, a fire and an oil crisis.

Robinsons documented his story in their company book, Robinson’s story, where The Star highlighted some snippets over 10 years ago.

When an immigrant meets a jailer

The Robinsons story began in 1858 with Philip Robinson, an Australian immigrant, and James Gaborian Spicer, a former Singapore jailer.

The two had settled under the name Spicer and Robinson as a “family warehouse” in Singapore.

Less than 2 years after the partnership, Spicier withdrew and the company was renamed Robinsons & Co.

Unlike most stores of the day which would open more outlets across the country to attract customers, Robinson developed his business in a different way.

He hired street vendors to prospect in the Malay Archipelago and Borneo.

Many Malaysian rulers were among his clients, as was King Mongkut of Siam, who was then the most powerful ruler in Southeast Asia.

Towards the end of 1864, a financial crisis resulted in the closure of businesses and many stores, but Robinsons managed to survive during this period.

Robinsons in Kuala Lumpur, 1970 / Image credit: Ashley Tang on Pinterest

Phillip Robinson died in 1881 and his son, Stamford Raffles Robinson, took over the business in 1886.

The 1890s saw the company do more business than ever in Malaysia, then known as the Malaysian States.

The company launched a massive newspaper advertising campaign and increased its number of street vendors.

In the early 1990s, Robinsons stockpiled musical instruments because most homes had a piano, horn, or gramophone. Sometimes all three.

According to The Star, Robinsons was among the first agents of Raleigh bikes in the world when they started selling the bikes in 1907.

People had access to cheap transportation in addition to walking for the first time.

By 1958 Robinson had sold over half a million Raleigh bikes.

Stay open despite a Japanese bombardment

The company opened its main store in Kuala Lumpur in 1928, just before the onset of the Great Depression.

In April 1932, the Straits Times reported that Robinson & Co had lost S $ 233,745 due to the continuing depression.

One of the factors was that its president refused to sell the store’s products at lower qualities and at more affordable prices to preserve the brand’s reputation.

For 70 years, we have built a reputation for quality. It would have been very unwise to sacrifice our reputation by lowering the quality of the stock.

Robinson’s story, highlighted by The Star.

The company weathered the storm and made its first profit of S $ 25,355 in 1936.

This led Singapore’s Robinsons to move to a larger building in Raffles Place, located in the country’s financial district.

In December 1941, the Japanese bombed Raffles Place, which blew up the storefront.

However, the Robinsonians stayed put and announced “Open as usual” at their door the next day.

It suffered damage and was attacked again in February 1942.

When the British returned to Singapore in 1945, the Robinsons building served as the headquarters.

Namely, the British Navy, Army and Air Force Institute and the Entertainments National Service Association – the entertainment and service organizations of the Allied Forces.

Back in Malaysia, Allied troops ran out of supplies.

The manager of Robinson’s Kuala Lumpur branch stepped in to provide hundreds of cots, food and clothing.

One of the company’s former presidents, WH MacGregor, died in captivity in 1942.

Survive fire

The Raffles Place store reopened in April 1946. For the first time in history, business flourished and made a profit of $ 1 million.

Robinson’s became the first store in the Far East to be fully air-conditioned in 1955.

That same year, the company acquired a 76% stake in the capital of John Little (Malaya) Ltd, a former chain of department stores.

In November 1972, the Raffles Place store caught fire, reducing the building to rubble.

Nine people died in the blaze and the store moved to the Specialist shopping center on Orchard Road.

Following the 1973 oil crisis, the Kuala Lumpur branch on Jalan Tun Perak Masjid Jamek closed in 1975.

The building was acquired by United Asian Bank in 1976, and it was demolished to make way for the bank’s headquarters, now known as Menara UAB.

Inside Robinsons at Four Seasons Place / Image Credit: Robinsons

Robinson’s made a comeback to Kuala Lumpur in 2007 after a thirty-two year hiatus when its new store opened in The Gardens, Mid Valley City.

A second store opened at Four Seasons Place, located next to the Petronas Towers.

This marked the return of the Robinsons to the central business district of Kuala Lumpur.

Join other names affected by the pandemic

A Robinsons department store operator said the world’s major retailers have left the industry and cited a study on retail trends.

In addition, he said more than half of department stores in shopping malls will close in the next five years.

Some famous names have already fallen victim to the pandemic.

For example, H&M reported a loss of more than RM 1.4 billion in the second quarter as sales fell sharply due to the pandemic.

It will close 170 of its outlets around the world and instead focus on online business.

Esprit announced the closure of all its Asian outlets (excluding China) by June 30.

“Likewise, Malaysia’s retail sector posted the worst growth rate in 33 years, with outlook remaining negative for the remaining months of the year as consumers tighten spending,”

The operator of the department store said in The Edge Markets.

Datuk Robert Teo Keng Tuan of RSM Malaysia has been appointed interim liquidator who will take control of the assets of the company.

RSM Malaysia will also examine options for realizing the value of Robinsons to maximize returns for its creditors.

Until this is done, stores will remain open for a few more weeks to facilitate final sales for customers before they close.

From now on, Robinsons stores in Singapore will go through a similar liquidation process.

  • You can read more about Robinsons here.
  • You can read more about the other Robinsons related articles here.

Featured Image Credit: Robinsons

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