In January 2021, Singaporeans bid farewell to household name. Robinsons, the iconic 162-year-old department store, had shut it’s doors to its flagship store in the city-state for the last time. The department store had announced on 30 October 2020 the closure of its last two outlets, saying the decision to liquidate was prompted by a range of factors, including changing consumer tastes and cost pressures such as rent.

No doubt, the advent of Covid-19 and its myriad of economic disruptions served to exasperate the problems that brick & mortar stores were already facing in an ever increasingly digital world.

However, this is not the end of Robinsons’ story in Singapore. In June, the historic department store made a miraculous comeback, with a little twist. The iconic retailer announced that it was acquired by wholesale supplier Canningvale Australia, owned by the Prainito family, as well as returning in the form of an online department store.

It is incredibly rare to see an organization make a return once it has exited a market. However, this return is a very welcome one.

SME recently had the unique opportunity to interview Robinsons Singapore’s Managing Director, Mr Jordan Prainito. Jordan focused on hiring Singaporeans for the Robinsons business, a number of whom were former Robinsons employees. Jordan believes that Robinsons is a Singaporean icon, and if it is to respond to the needs of Singaporeans, Robinsons must be run by the people who understand the local market.

“During the first year of operations, we will focus on hiring talent in house. We have already hired four on the ground in Singapore to assist with the relaunch – a General Manager for Merchandising & Supply Chain as well as a Merchandising Manager, an Accountant and most recently, a Digital Marketing Manager. We are currently looking for a few roles such as ecommerce platform manager, a supply chain coordinator and a few others. Robinsons is a Singaporean icon, if it is to respond to the needs of Singaporeans, it must be run by the people who understand the market,” said Jordan.

With Robinsons’ re-entry into the Singapore market, the store will have to re-establish its values and ideals. When asked about this, Jordan said: “I think it differs between businesses and industries, for us it’s about demonstrating our values every day and recognizing those who do the same in our day-to-day operations. We also hold ourselves accountable for our core values. We try to foster an environment that supports this and celebrates it in a positive way. We also keep them visible, we put our values on everyone’s desktop background, so when they log in each day, they are reminded about what we do, why we do it, and what makes what we do so special.”


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