Fellow Singaporeans. Today I talk to you a crisis, but this one involves something near and dear to our hearts: Consumerism.
It’s a fact that the culture of Singapore can be tied to shopping. From queueing up at long lines because “confirm good” and at short lines because “must be quick”…
We can all agree that at some point in our lives, we stared at something behind a panel of glass or some display and said mentally “I want that thing”. There are many places that provide this experience, but few stand out here.
Robinson’s is a name that stands out the most in this. Hailing back from the earliest period of British Colonialist rule, it has been THE department store since 1857. Once selling groceries like dried meat or tea, it is now known for selling the latest clothes, accessories and the occasional fragrance.
It has survived much. From the fiery bombs of Japanese Imperial expansion, a large fire at 1972 that had to be stopped from water pumped in from the Singapore river and ownership transferred to a Dubai consortium. From this chaos it had even made small inroads to our Malaysian neighbours.
But it’s heydays are over and the last 2 stores are to close: the Heeren & Raffles Shopping Center. Truly, this will be a world that will be next to unrecognizable post-pandemic.
Already in this major shift in the human experience, other brands have somehow trickled in from overseas. Like lesser-known pizza chain “Little Caesars” or an app where sellers livestream their hawking of goods in real time. Innovations to surely benefit us later on when we don’t have to suffocate the bottom half of our faces.
But this closure marks an even more sinister trend. Other local businesses has closed. From cake maker Bakerzin to that seafood restaurant built that spins on top an old grain mill.
Pieces of our history and symbols of our initiative to strive for financial sovereignty is shuttering down. But what else is to be expected when your capacity halves, your costs rise and your base of customers shrinks to a handful.
Where was the government intervention to save them from such a fate? To shield their customers from this deadly plague? To wield that large sword of power giving these SMEs a crutch when they constantly strive for sustainability when those up high are barely affected cause they own the real estate the victims utilize?
This simply just pisses me off to no end. I did expect the occasional store in my neighbourhood to make way for a glut in real estate that has to be converted from retail purposes as the mall loses significance as a third space to socialize between work and home. But these are my memories. For what little they were, they could very well be your memories too.
Locked up in a better time when stuff cost less. So I ask you, what is the point of this system where we apparently are second in freedoms to conduct business? To allow the best to cease operation and rescue the mediocre to float on?
That is the real injustice here. Easier to do business… but for who? The people born and raised in our island? Bah. Name me an MNC we can be proud off! That we can fly alongside our flag and reference it as success?
Are you awake Mister Heng? WHERE ARE YOUR TEARS MISS INDRANEE?! And is our honourable friend Lawrence listening at all?
Until the next incident or injustice, I am your loyal reader Justin