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THREE years after branching out to Singapore with much aplomb, cult homeware and lifestyle retailer Goods of Desire has decided to withdraw from our shores.
Its 6,000 square foot store in Central mall on Clarke Quay - the Hong Kong brand's first overseas outlet - will be shutting for good on April 26. It is the latest in a string of international retailers that have pulled out of Singapore in the last year, such as Lowrys Farm, Parco, Francfranc, River Island, Aussino Group, and Fancl.
According to architect-entrepreneur Douglas Young, who founded Goods of Desire in 1996, the franchise agreement between Goods of Desire and local franchisee Far East Organization was always for a fixed term of three years, and the store was not making enough of a profit to consider extending the agreement. "The operating challenges in Singapore are the same as those we face in Hong Kong and reflective of the general global retail environment - rising rents, rising costs of resources, sluggish retail appetite and sales," said Mr Young, who operates six stores in Hong Kong.
"The GOD brand has built an 18-year reputation in Hong Kong and with it comes a strong loyal following. In Singapore, we were a new brand, so it is natural to be more successful in our home city."
Mr Young also cited the significant shift to online shopping over the past year as one of the factors for the decision. "In fact, there has been a significant spike in Internet sales towards the winding down of the shop, which indicates that the appetite from Singapore is there," he states, adding that the brand has revamped and reinvigorated its website to prepare for the digital shift.
When contacted, Far East Organization's chief operating officer of its retail business group, Mavis Seow, said that the agreement not to continue the business was "mutual" and that the group would be focusing on its "core business of retail development and management", which has grown quite substantially locally and in Australia in recent years.
Existing staff members will be redeployed to other business units in Far East Organization, Ms Seow said.
When BT visited this week, barren shelves remained, and its two remaining employees were seen packing the remaining sales items into cardboard boxes. The store has been running 50 per cent storewide discounts since late March.
As for perhaps returning to Singapore one day, Mr Young (who had once talked of working with local hotel partners) said: "One can never tell. In Hong Kong, we are constantly shifting locations depending on the retail environment and the customer demand and demographics."
Citing the brand's first Taiwan store that opened in the 101 Eslite Bookstore in Taipei's prime shopping district last weekend, Mr Young added: "The government in Taiwan categorises us as a 'Cultural Enterprise'. As such, we benefit from rental concessions and marketing support, which is a great foundation and encouragement for us to take the brand to Taiwan."