*The last section has been updated to include additional comments from Fazal Bahardeen
Singapore’s only all-halal supermarket has shut its doors over rent arrears after two years in operation.
MyOutlets‘ Global Halal Hub, a 10,000 square-foot supermarket, shuttered on August 14. Three days later the retailer said in a Facebook post: “Due to the discrepancy between the landlord and us, we are exploring our plan with our shareholder.”
“It’s a rental issue with the current landlord, which came as quite a surprise as we had been engaging them and making regular payments. We are only in arrears of two months,” MyOutlets co-founder and chairman Ronnie Faizal Tan told Salaam Gateway, adding that he could not comment further as it was an “ongoing sensitive issue”.
Tan stressed that only the Viva Business Park outlet had closed, while the remaining stores in the international MyOutlets halal retail network would continue operating.
The chain operates stores outside Singapore, including in Japan, Malaysia and South Korea, and is also involved in an online marketplace, Haladeen.com.
In July, it was behind an initial token offering, which it refers to as an Initial Coin Offering (ICO), for a planned blockchain-based halal marketplace. The offering hopes to raise the equivalent of $86 million from the sale of 600 million new tokens.
“I have done strategic planning for the ICO since the beginning and I have built a formidable team. At this juncture I’m totally confident for the team to manage the ICO,” said Tan.
The supermarket‘s landlord, Viva Trust, which operates the Viva Business Park on Chai Chee Road, said it was “unfortunate” that it had to terminate Global Halal Hub’s tenancy, but it had followed all procedures in doing so. It also suggested that the affair had gone on longer than just two months.
“[Global Halal Hub] has been in arrears for the past year. We have issued them reminder letters and letters of demand (LOD), and given them more time even after each letter has been issued,” Viva Trust spokesperson Lyn Ong told Salaam Gateway.
“Typically, after you issue an LOD, you can enter the premises, but we tended to give them an extension,” said Ong.
“In August, we issued an LOD but after the extension we gave them, they still didn’t meet the due date. It’s unfortunate but we had to do what we did,” Ong added.
‘BLESSING IN DISGUISE’
Tan called the closure a blessing in disguise, as it would allow MyOutlets to seek premises for a new store that would be located in an area with a more substantial Muslim residential population.
“We have ongoing plans and an enhanced business model, and will locate a better place so we can put this episode to one side,” he said.
“We have received a lot of calls from our customers, mainly Muslim ones, to be closer to them. Many of them are located in the northern and western parts of Singapore, in places like Woodlands, Punggol, even Bukit Batok, where there are more Muslim customers.”
Global Halal Hub has retained its stock of halal-certified products from 41 countries, it claims. As well as food and beverages, the retailer also sold household brand products.
Tan himself will oversee the search for new premises while guiding further overseas expansion for MyOutlets.
While he will remain an advisor to Haladeen, he will now solely focus on his company’s bricks and mortar business.
MORE HALAL SUPPLY
Fazal Bahardeen, chief executive of Crescent Rating, a Singapore-based halal travel authority that focuses on the food sector as part of the industry ecosystem, said there has been growing demand for halal food in the republic that is met by a lot of supply.
“If you look at the general market here, all the indicators definitely show that there is a lot more interest in halal food. There are many more brands available here — almost all major food chains stock halal-certified food, compared to four or five years ago. The demand is there, and is also growing and awareness is coming in,” Bahardeen told Salaam Gateway.
However, consumers also have access to more retail channels, such as online stores and major supermarkets, that is “making it difficult for specialised halal store owners”, said Bahardeen.
“A lot of businesses are feeling the heat of online businesses,” he said.
“If you look at the main supermarkets and others, they are stocking halal enough. Many people are used to going to the major supermarkets.”
(Reporting by Richard Whitehead; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected])
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