When 162-year-old departmental store operator Robinson, weighed down with a net deficit of $186.3 million, shuttered the doors of all its stores across Singapore one last time, the retail industry could only watch helplessly at the demise of yet another of its own. Not long after that, Metro Holdings, another long-time operator in the local departmental store scene, publicly mulled if it should close its last two outlets here and concentrate on its property business instead.

The bleak outlook of Singapore-listed department stores can be seen in their share prices. As at March 2, Metro is trading at 72 cents, down 44.3% from its September 2017 peak of $1.13 while Isetan (Singapore), which closed at $4.27 on March 2, once traded as high as $6.95 back in 2007.

However, Robinsons’ downfall could very much be due to its lack of competitive spirit and will to innovate and upgrade. On the other hand, Metro had expanded into property long ago, and even while it mulls the exit as a retailer, it recently took up hefty stakes in students’ accommodations as well as industrial and logistics properties.

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