…its Ngee Ann City store
The entire shop front, about 30-metres long, on basement one of Ngee Ann City is boarded up. The messages on the hoarding, printed against a pink background, read “business as usual while we reignite your experience”, offering no information to what (or who) will come next. Inside, workers can be seen dismantling fixtures. On NAC’s website, the store is no longer listed in its directory. It’s the same on the in-mall digital directory. Zara’s own homepage still shows the existence of the NAC store, but when you click on “opening times for the next few days”, you’ll see “closed” indicated on each of the next seven listed. Google Map still shows the NAC store, and states that it is open and will close at 9.30pm. A call to the accompanying phone number went unanswered. The line is not disconnected yet.
In front of the former Zara, a security guard walked past. We asked him what happened to Inditex’s star brand. He grumpily told us the store “was closed on Sunday”. Which Sunday? “Last Sunday.” Verifying that were the salespersons of the MAC store opposite. “They closed four or five days ago,” we were told. Were they not doing well? “Don’t know, leh.” Could they be closed for renovation? They had no answer to that either. At the information counter, the cheery attendant said that the “store is closed permanently.” Do you know why? “Don’t know. Maybe they have too many stores in Orchard.” Then she helpfully told us to “go to either 313 or Wheelock”.
Screen grab of Zara’s homepage showing the opening times of their NAC store
Zara was one of the earliest fast fashion brands to open here—in 2002, 47 years after its debut in the port city of Coruna in Spain. (Topshop opened earlier—in 2000, but they exited the market here earlier too—last year). Inditex entered the Asian market with the first store in Tokyo in 1999. We were the first in Southeast Asia to have a Zara store, then operated by Royal Clicks, formerly Royal Sporting House (it reverted to RSH in 2003). It was at NAC that the first Zara store welcomed delighted fans as well as the many who thought Zara’s arrival to be late. The space was originally a single unit until it doubled (it was originally the unit adjacent to Guess), with a separate menswear store. It would become the go-to store for reasonably-priced, on-trend clothes. At last count, Zara had eight stores throughout our island.
In 2012, former owners of Robinsons, Al-Futtaim Group, invested in RSH for a sum never publicly disclosed. Four years later, they acquired the distribution rights to Zara (as well as RSH’s other brands, such as Mango and Bebe). Despite news emerging last June that Inditex was planning to close 1,200 stores globally, a spokesperson for Al-Futtaim Group told The Straits Times, “our stores are planning to open as usual in Phase 2 in line with the government measures.” Open as usual does not mean—especially with the end of the pandemic nowhere yet in sight—indefinitely. We saw that in Robinsons. Zara’s closure, even just one store, does not bode well for our shrinking fashion retail industry.
Photo: Chin Boh Kay