Crabtree & Evelyn Singapore to close all stores

Crabtree & Evelyn Singapore is in the process of closing all of its 12 stores on the island and will move exclusively online.

The closures follow the placing of the Canadian business into bankruptcy protection last month, resulting in the closure of its 19 stores there as it liquidates its stock.

Crabtree & Evelyn was founded in the US in 1972, expanding to the UK in 1980. It was sold to a Malaysian company in 1996, with its US subsidiary entering bankruptcy protection in 2009, resulting in the closure of about a quarter of its store network.

The business was bought by Hong Kong investment company Khuan Choo International in mid 2012 for US$155 million before being sold to the current owner, another Hong Kong company, Nan Hai Corporation, four years later. Listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, Nan Hai’s primary business focus is operating cinemas and digital entertainment services, mostly in Mainland China. It has no other specific retail or cosmetics investments.

In March last year Nan Hai said it had invested in expanding and revitalising the Crabtree & Evelyn product range and that it would expand the brand into the mainland: “Crabtree & Evelyn will fully enter the PRC market in 2018 and the development of [an] e-commerce platform and membership system will be its business focus for 2018, thereby creating synergy with the e-commerce and membership strategies of the group’s cinema operations, which would be beneficial to the long-term development of the group,” the company said in a stock exchange filing.

Online expansion was also planned in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, but it made no mention of closing stores and it is not clear in which markets it owns its retail operations and in which it has distribution partners.

According to Canadian news reports, the business there filed for bankruptcy citing “significant losses” due to changing consumer demand, rising competition online and an ongoing decline in footfall in its stores.

Crabtree & Evelyn Singapore is expected to continue trading from two stores in the city – Ngee Ann City and Paragon – until January 31, where it will honour gift vouchers. It has wound down its offline loyalty program in favour of a new online version.

The company declined comment when approached by the Straits Times.

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