This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 2, 2020 - March 8, 2020
SINGAPORE-based department-store chain Robinsons is looking to shut down one of its two stores in Kuala Lumpur ahead of its lease expiry, sources tell The Edge.
They say a reason for the shutdown is the poor footfall since Robinsons Kuala Lumpur opened in The Shoppes in Four Seasons Place — located next to the Petronas Twin Towers in Jalan Ampang — less than two years ago. The other outlet, Robinsons The Gardens Mall, opened its doors in Mid Valley City in September 2007.
It is understood that Robinsons is likely to vacate the premises in the third quarter of the year.
The retailer is said to have approached other department-store operators, including Sogo and Parkson, to take up the space. “Every department store operator has been approached,” a source tells The Edge.
Recall that in February last year, Parkson exited the 126,000 sq ft space it had been occupying in Suria KLCC since 1998. At press time, Parkson had yet to reply to questions sent by The Edge on the possibility of its opening a store in Four Seasons Place.
Four Seasons Place comprises a hotel, retail space and residences. Developed by Venus Assets Sdn Bhd, it is owned by Venus Pacific Sdn Bhd, whose shareholders are ISY Equity Sdn Bhd (30%) and Attesa Investments Ltd (70%). The former is equally owned by Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah and Tan Sri Syed Yusof Syed Nasir, better known as Jojo. Attesa Investment is reported to be controlled by Ipoh-born tycoon Ong Beng Seng. While the residences were sold, the retail and hotel portions were retained for recurring income.
When contacted, a source close to Venus Assets confirmed that Robinsons will be moving out, possibly as early as this month, citing difficult retail conditions. The source added that discussions between the tenant and landlord are still ongoing to determine the exact date of the departure.
The Edge understands that the exit has been postponed to the third quarter. It did not receive a response to emails sent to Robinsons. Syed Nasir did not respond to WhatsApp messages.
Reports say that the store at Four Seasons Place is spread across four floors and takes up 200,000 sq ft of space. It offers 500 brands. The space is equivalent to the Parkson store in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. Robinsons The Gardens Mall occupies 110,000 sq ft of space.
A search on the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s website shows that Robinson & Co (Malaya) Sdn Bhd is wholly owned by Alfuttaim Holdings Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which, in turn, is held by RSH Ltd. RSH comes under the United Arab Emirates-based Al-Futtaim group, which is involved in the automotive, real estate, finance and health sectors. Other brands in the group’s portfolio in Malaysia include Marks & Spencer, ZARA, Ted Baker, Massimo Dutti and Nike.
Robinson & Co has been in the red for the past few years. In the financial year ended Dec 31, 2018 (FY2018), its net loss widened to RM30.46 million from RM5.98 million in the previous year. It posted a revenue of RM55.89 million, down from RM76.23 million in FY2017. As at Dec 31, 2018, it had accumulated losses of RM138.36 million. Its total liabilities stood at RM215.85 million, of which RM110.54 million were current.
It is no secret that the Malaysian retail industry is going through a tough time. Data from Retail Group Malaysia, released on behalf of the Malaysia Retailers Association, shows that the department store category recorded a marginal growth of 0.8% in the first quarter of 2019 but in the second and third quarters, sales contracted 0.7% and 2.3% respectively. In 2018, the category grew a mere 0.5%.
Still, the current economic environment could pose a challenge for Robinsons in finding someone to take its place at Four Seasons Place.
According to its website, Robinsons’ history can be traced back to Feb 25, 1858, when John Spicer and Philip Robinson founded family warehouse, Spicer and Robinson, in Commercial Square in Singapore. In 1928, it opened its first store in Malaysia in Jalan Tun Perak, and was regarded as “a benchmark to meet in terms of shopping experiences within Malaysia”.
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