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

The chain's last store in Plaza Singapura was closed in the end of 2016.[2] In 2016, the Robinsons company announced that they would be changing the John Little brand to a pop up format. The company also holds regular sales at Singapore Expo.

The former stores included:

  • Marina Square store: John Little's largest outlet which opened in June 2007 and closed in April 26, 2015 (Closed due to building's renovation works);[3]
  • White Sands store: White Sands store closed in July 2007
  • Tiong Bahru Plaza store: Tiong Bahru Plaza store closed in August 2015 (Closed due to building's renovation works and poor business)
  • Jurong Point store: Jurong Point store to be replaced by BHG in August 2016 (Closed due to Government Contracting Model)
  • Main store at Specialists' Shopping Centre along Orchard Road closed on 9 July 2007.[4]
  • Plaza Singapura store: Plaza Singapura store closed end 2016


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.[6]

In 2015, Al-Futtaim, the owner of Robinsons, announced that JL's Marina Square & Tiong Bahru Plaza store will be closed due to lack of businesses and renovation. The Marina Square store closed on April 26, while Tiong Bahru Plaza also closed on August 2015. John Little will also close Jurong Point outlet in August 2016 for the transfer to BHG and also due to the Government Contracting Model (GCM). [7] By the end of 2016, the last store in Plaza Singapura will also be closed.[8]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Frommers: Specialists' Shopping Centre". Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  2. ^ hermes (2016-11-06). "John Little to close last store by year end". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2017-02-26. 
  3. ^ "Major shake-up at Robinsons Group; some John Little, Marks & Spencer outlets to close". Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Shutters Down, One Last Time". The Straits Times. 10 July 2007. 
  5. ^ "John Little: About Us". Archived from the original on 17 January 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  6. ^ "John Little: Only in Singapore". Retrieved 10 July 2007. 
  7. ^ "Two John Little stores to close in Singapore Us". Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  8. ^ "John Little to close final outlet at Plaza Singapura - 174 years of history at a glance". Retrieved 7 November 2016. 

External links[edit]