Customers rushed to make payment for their purchases at Robinsons yesterday afternoon, when the iconic retailer announced in-store that the Raffles City outlet, its last, would close by 3pm.
The early closure came as a surprise to many Saturday shoppers, as liquidator KordaMentha had earlier said that the store's last day will not be later than today.
A KordaMentha spokesman said yesterday that the store was closing earlier as all the stock had been sold. When The Sunday Times visited the store at 1pm yesterday, there were about 20 people on each floor.
Retiree Koh Swee Gek, 80, was rummaging through the remaining items. It was the third time that she had visited the store in the past week, having been there earlier on Monday and Friday.
Ms Koh has fond memories of Robinsons, having often walked past its Raffles Place building on her way to work in the 1970s. She was then a dental staff nurse at the now-demolished Peck Seah Primary School in Telok Ayer.
"I would make a detour and walk past Robinsons just to see what was in the window displays," said Ms Koh, who was heartbroken about the store's closure.
The 162-year-old Robinsons had announced on Oct 30 last year the closure of its last two outlets here, saying the decision to liquidate was prompted by a range of factors, including changing consumer tastes and cost pressures such as rent. Its outlet at The Heeren in Orchard Road was closed on Dec 16.
Ms Koh praised the staff who served customers thoughtfully throughout, right up to the closure.
One staff member, whom she remembered as Theresa, had recommended some lipsticks to her based on her complexion and helped her choose the shades on Friday. "My hands shake sometimes because I'm old but she helped me open every lipstick I wanted to try," she said.
Another customer, Mr Soo Tat Yan, 65, had visited the store shortly after spending his stay-home notice at the nearby Swissotel the Stamford. He had not intended to make one last visit yesterday but decided to take a look as it was raining outside.
"When I was 16, I bought my first wallet with my own money from Robinsons at Raffles Place after I landed my first job," said the consultant who works in Indonesia.
Although it was the last day of operation for the store, the staff were upbeat, briskly serving customers until the last one left at 3.57pm.
"I'm actually relieved that we managed to sell everything, even most of the fixtures," said a sales supervisor who wanted to be known only as Ms Nurul.
This is the 27-year-old's first retail job and she has been with the company for eight years.
She is grateful to the liquidators who reassured remaining employees that they were "one of the top" priorities among the unsecured creditors.
"I feel lucky that we were able to sell everything so the company can clear its debts," she said.
The staff would have Christmas parties in good years, and she said she would still try to meet her colleagues to celebrate Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and Deepavali.
Security guard Andy Loh, 48, said he would miss the people too.
Mr Loh, who is with security company FSI, has worked shifts at Robinsons for six years.
When he heard the store was closing, he asked his company for shifts to be there until its last day.
Mr Loh said: "Even when we were very busy during events, the managers would buy us food. When customers complained, they would listen to the staff instead of just taking the customer's side."
When asked about his favourite memories of the store, he said: "When you stepped into Robinsons, every minute, every second was a good experience. I never thought it would end."