John Little (department store)

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This article is about a retail chain in Singapore. For other uses, see John Little (disambiguation).
John Little's Marina Square store

John Little is a chain of department stores in Singapore. Established in 1845, John Little is the oldest department store in Singapore.[1] The John Little chain is owned by Robinson & Co. Limited.

The chain currently has three stores in Singapore, at Plaza Singapura, Tiong Bahru Plaza and Jurong Point. The Marina Square store is John Little's largest outlet which opened in June 2007 and closed in April 26, 2015;[2] while its main store at Specialists' Shopping Centre along Orchard Road closed on 9 July 2007.[3]


John Little was founded by John M. Little in 1845 at Raffles Place, then known as Commercial Square. Little then was an employee of F. Martin, who sold his business to Little and Cursetjee Frommurze to form Little, Cursetjee & Co. Frommurze was a well-known Parsee merchant.

John Little & Co.'s department store at Commercial Square, c. 1900

On 1 July 1845, Little and Frommurze started their business as auctioneers and commission agents, and offered services in retail as well as auction of properties such as spice plantations and valuable household furniture. Shoppers could buy tickets to plays, musicals and other performances. Little, Cursetjee & Co. became a popular hangout for locals to hold meetings, and functioned like the modern-day equivalent of a central box office.

On 30 June 1853, Little and Frommurze ended their eight-year partnership. John Little & Co. was then formed, and John's brother, Martin, was made a partner. The business continued in the same direction and premises. In 1894, John Little & Co. Ltd was registered by Harwood and Stephenson, London, with a capital of 75,000 in £20 shares.

As Singapore grew as a trading port in the late 19th century, John Little expanded in the same period. In addition to retail, John Little also operated a car business, a motor garage, a furniture factory, a café and a beauty salon. From its original one-storey premises in Raffles Place, the store expanded to occupy another floor.

In the early 20th century, John Little also set up branches in Malaya; there were branches in Kuala Lumpur (1914), Penang (1926), and Ipoh (1929). However, the advent of World War II and subsequent Japanese Occupation resulted in the closure of these branches.

After the Japanese occupation of Singapore ended in 1945, it took some time for John Little to re-open for business due to lack of manpower and merchandise. In June 1946, John Little resumed business, and subsequently registered such good sales that the store declared a 20% dividend for its ordinary shareholders in 1948.

In 1955, John Little was acquired by Robinsons. The store was relaunched as JL on 29 August 1987 with a new logo, new image and merchandise selection. Its main store moved from Raffles Place to several locations before moving into Specialists' Shopping Centre until its closure in July 2007.[5]

In 2015, Al-Futtaim, the owner of Robinsons, announced that JL's Marina Square & Tiong Bahru Plaza store will be closed "in order to focus manpower and resources on enhancing its Plaza Singapura and Jurong Point stores." The Marina Square store closed on April 26, while Tiong Bahru's store closure date has yet to be unveiled.[6]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Frommers: Specialists' Shopping Centre". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  2. ^ "Major shake-up at Robinsons Group; some John Little, Marks & Spencer outlets to close". Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  3. ^ "Shutters Down, One Last Time". The Straits Times. 10 July 2007. 
  4. ^ "John Little: About Us". Archived from the original on 20 June 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  5. ^ "John Little: Only in Singapore". Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  6. ^ "Two John Little stores to close in Singapore Us". Retrieved 3 July 2015. 

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