SINGAPORE – Mr Frank Benjamin, who helmed retailer F J Benjamin for 63 years, all the time had a knack for sniffing out new, in-vogue style manufacturers every time older labels went out of fashion.
Knowing what Singaporeans need in style enabled the 88-year-old to steer his firm again to profitability each time altering tendencies led to a drop in demand for the manufacturers F J Benjamin manages and distributes.
But the pandemic has upended the enterprise it’s in. Covid-19 has helped to cement a desire for on-line buying amongst many customers, making the style trade a extra complicated and aggressive enterprise for the largely bricks-and-mortar-focused firm, he mentioned.
The trend-spotter, who retired as founder and chairman of the Singapore-listed retailer in December, famous that fast-fashion Internet retailers such as Shein and Zalora are rolling out low-cost and stylish labels a lot sooner than their extra established bricks-and-mortar-focused rivals.
He leaves behind an organization that’s taking a distinct path from the one he based.
Now helmed by his youthful brother Nash, 73, who took over as chairman on Jan 1, and his elder son Douglas, 59, who changed Nash as chief government, F J Benjamin has additionally diversified for the primary time into wellness and skincare.
“Every decade is completely different from the subsequent by way of style,” Mr Benjamin mentioned. “But buying in an precise retailer was all the time essential to folks. They wish to go to a store to see the merchandise and be served. But Covid modified all the things.”
The desire for on-line buying places F J Benjamin on the again foot, as it derives simply 10 per cent of its income on-line.
“We closed eight shops throughout Covid and went into the well being and wellness enterprise after signing a contract to distribute Airfree air purifiers,” Mr Benjamin mentioned.
All this presents a novel set of circumstances for the corporate’s new administration, which is already underneath stress from shareholders to ship higher income and share value efficiency after scuffling with losses for years.
F J Benjamin was positioned on the Singapore Exchange watch listing in December 2016 after it posted pre-tax losses for greater than three consecutive years and had a median each day market capitalisation of lower than $40 million for greater than six months. Mr Benjamin mentioned the losses have been primarily from two American life-style manufacturers, Gap and Banana Republic, which have been no match for worldwide fast-fashion manufacturers like H&M and Forever 21 by way of selection and pricing. Meanwhile, it overspent on growing an in-house clothes label, Raoul, which did not take off.
“We needed to cease carrying these manufacturers, minimize salaries and shut unprofitable retailers to recuperate the enterprise,” he mentioned.
The firm managed to show a small revenue of $177,000 for the 12 months ended June 30, 2019, and was faraway from the SGX watch listing in February 2021. It additionally transferred its itemizing from the SGX mainboard to its secondary Catalist board.
Those fortunes have been short-lived nonetheless, with the corporate falling again into the pink when the pandemic struck throughout the monetary years of 2020 and 2021.