Singapore

Home-Fix to shutter last store this week

This article is more than 12 months old

High rentals and competition from e-commerce platforms hit the chain hard

Once a familiar name in many a Singapore shopping mall - and with more than 20 outlets at its peak - home-grown hardware chain Home-Fix will be shutting its last store here by the end of the week.

The firm, which has been placed under interim judicial management, has about $19.8 million in liabilities on its books, The Business Times reported yesterday.

Its e-commerce site will remain operational for now, as the company undergoes debt restructuring.

Despite being held up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his May Day rally speech last year as an example of a retailer evolving with the times, observers said that the transformation efforts may have been too little, too late.

Among the challenges the do-it-yourself (DIY) chain had were high mall rentals, competition from e-commerce and neighbourhood stores that sell the same wares for cheaper and a sluggish economy.

FINANCIAL WOES

One of the firm's two directors, Mr Low Cheong Kee, told creditors on Tuesday that the company's financial woes were due in part to loss-making stores and an inability to compete with the delivery rates of other e-commerce sites.

Refurbishment works at Great World City and Thomson Plaza also hit sales at its two highest-grossing outlets, Mr Low reportedly said.

Both stores have closed, while its units at malls such as Compass One and Novena Square were repossessed earlier this year.

Home-Fix now lists just two stores on its website, at Tanglin Mall and Tampines One.

The outlet at Tanglin Mall was shuttered and bore signs saying "business closed" when The Straits Times visited yesterday, while the store at Tampines One had half-empty shelves.

A staff member at the store said that it would be closing by the end of the week and declined to comment further.

Home-Fix's office in Tai Seng was largely empty yesterday afternoon, with cardboard boxes strewn about. The company did not respond to queries.

Creditors told BT that Mr Low, who runs the business with his brother Mr Low Cheong Yew, plans to revive the company by tapping other services it offers, such as home repairs and training courses.

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said that the move to focus on services is a good one.

"In extremely urbanised Singapore, with a lot of very busy home owners, I don't think the market for DIYers is that big," he said.

"Online businesses which offer a huge variety and good prices, even with shopping costs added, further make the DIY retail business a very difficult one."

Home-Fix is the latest casualty in the retail sector. Cosmetics retailer Sasa announced earlier this month that it would be closing all 22 stores in Singapore, while DFS will be pulling out of Changi Airport in June 2020 after nearly 40 years.

BUSINESS & FINANCE