'Department stores are closing one by one, it's so sad': Shoppers throng OG's Orchard Point outlet

‘Department stores are closing one by one, it’s so sad’: Shoppers throng OG’s Orchard Point outlet

SINGAPORE – Queues formed outside the entrances of department store OG at Orchard Point on Friday morning (July 22), the day after the retailer announced it would be shutting the outlet in October. 

There were around 50 people each at the store’s two main entrances. Queues started forming just before it opened at 11am. 

Customers entered in an orderly fashion, with most flocking to the first level’s womenswear section, and the fourth floor’s homeware and electronics sections.

OG, the latest familiar name to close its doors in Orchard Road, said on Thursday that it would be shutting the Orchard Point outlet after an 18-year run to make way for a new store specialising in fresh food and groceries.

It did not reveal the name of the new tenant taking over the space.

A spokesman for OG told The Straits Times that over the years, many different businesses have approached it to lease the building’s shopping podium.

“But last year, one local business pitched to us their vision to establish their flagship store at our Orchard Road location, building on their strength in fresh food and grocery to create a landmark experiential space that would have live seafood, differentiated food and beverage, and exclusive merchandise,” the spokesman said.

“We then accepted their proposal to transform the space into a mega-mart concept store and leased the space to them.”

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The Orchard Road stalwart, which sits between The Centrepoint and Orchard Plaza, also announced a moving-out sale on its Facebook page, with clearance deals of up to 90 per cent off.

Among the customers picking up deals was Ms Aisyah Binsmit, 45, who is self-employed. She had seen the news about the store’s closing from messages circulating in her WhatsApp groups.

“I was not planning to come down today, but I missed the Robinsons and Isetan closing sales, so I thought I would swing by,” said Ms Aisyah, who bought shoes and a wallet during her shopping trip. 

Robinsons had closed its remaining two department stores at The Heeren in December 2020 and at Raffles City in January 2021, while Japanese retail giant Isetan shut down its Westgate store in Jurong East in 2020 and its Parkway Parade outlet in March this year.

Ms Aisyah lamented the loss of department stores, which she said are a convenient one-stop shop. 

“All the department stores are closing one by one; it’s so sad,” she said. “I’m old school, I don’t do boutiques… This is familiar and easy and quick.”

It was a sentiment mirrored by sales manager Cassandra Teo. 

Ms Teo, 45, was not aware of the department store was closing and decided to walk in to check out why it was crowded. 

She noted how some familiar department store names have either closed down all their stores or scaled down their operations here. 

“Names like Sogo, Metro and OG don’t resonate with the new generation, but the older generation grew up with these names and there is a familiarity,” she said.

Home-grown retailer OG, whose operations date back to the 1960s, bought the Orchard Point building in 2003 and opened its outlet there in January 2004 after renovations. 

The retailer has two other outlets at Albert Complex and People’s Park.

“As part of our long-term strategy, we are looking to open more outlets closer to our suburban customers,” said the OG spokesman.

OG said it hopes to add stores in the heartlands, where the majority of its customers live.

“We prefer to own the property that we operate in and are evaluating locations outside of the city,” the spokesman added.

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Staff whom ST spoke to said they have not yet been told what would happen to their jobs once the Orchard Point outlet closes in October.

In response to queries from ST, OG’s spokesman said that staff from the outlet will be redeployed to the remaining two outlets, or to OG’s e-commerce business.

“The OG staff will be transferred (to the other outlets) but we have not heard what will happen to the promoters,” said a promoter, who wanted to be known only as Ms Lim.

The 59-year-old has worked as a promoter at OG for the last 18 years. She remained cheerful while serving customers on Friday. 

“Once they announced we were closing, we were very sad because many of us have worked here for many years,” said Ms Lim. 

She expects the store to remain crowded this weekend, and all the way till it closes in a few months’ time. 

“A lot of customers have told us, ‘Please tell your boss to stay here, we like it here…’ but we can’t do anything,” she added. 

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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