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FJ Benjamin ramps up online store network

FJ Benjamin on Monday said it has substantially scaled up its online store network after inking agreements with several global brands.

The retail group and luxury brand distributor now runs online stores for five of the brands it represents - namely Guess, Casio, Pretty Ballerina, Anti-Social Social Club and Superdry.

The company had launched UK brand Superdry's Singapore e-commerce store in June 2019 and its Malaysia online store in January 2020.

FJ Benjamin added that it is currently in talks with or will soon roll out online stores for at least seven other brands. These include US Polo Association, Rebecca Minkoff, Moby, Lancel, Axel Arigato, Barbara Sturm and a "well-known" European lifestyle cosmetics brand.

Some new labels will be launched as online-only labels, the company added.

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Depending on the performance of the brand online, future rental expectations and the Covid-19 situation, the company may consider opening brick-and-mortar stores if these prove viable, said group chief operating officer Douglas Benjamin.

The e-commerce push comes amid the company negotiating with the principals of the fashion brands it represents, as well as several new labels, for the rights to sell their range of products online.

Due to the novel coronavirus situation, FJ Benjamin shuttered all its stores in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia following government-imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. It has 15 stores in Singapore, 200 in Indonesia and over 70 in Malaysia.

Despite ramping up its online presence, the company said it will not forsake its physical store network - which will continue to be its mainstay.

"But we will definitely be culling stores that are not performing to expectations, where we cannot be profitable either because of high cost or low volume," Mr Benjamin said.

FJ Benjamin, which is watch-listed, warned in an interview with The Business Times that it will not be profitable in 2020. Before Covid-19, the company's market value was hovering around S$30 million, but this has since fallen below S$20 million.

Shares of FJ Benjamin were trading flat at S$0.02 as at 4.45pm on Monday.

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