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In gentle of the COVID-19 virus outbreak in Singapore, honestbee introduced final month a short lived suspension of operations for its habitat grocery store at Pasir Panjang as a result of a “vital discount in walk-in site visitors.’
It mentioned that it’s going to shut habitat till February 23, however later prolonged it to February 29.
Regardless of the closure, honestbee mentioned that its on-line grocery supply companies will nonetheless stay operational. It added that whereas habitat stays closed, the corporate will take the chance to enhance its know-how infrastructure to reinforce buyer expertise.
Individually, Kenneth Forbes, vice-president of habitat, resigned from the corporate within the final week of February. He was beforehand the overall supervisor of habitat, and declined to touch upon his causes for departure.
Habitat Furnishings Discovered At Honestbee CEO’s Home
On March 2, Enterprise Instances reported that honestbee had cleared out its furnishings and fixtures from habitat.
Honestbee’s lease is meant to run till September this 12 months, so causes for the untimely closure was unclear. Nonetheless, what’s clear is that landlord LHN House Sources is unwilling to increase the lease.
In line with BT, honestbee has S$1.97 million price of furnishings and fixtures, S$three.87 million price of retailer gear and over S$84,000 in workplace gear as of end-January.
It additionally reported that the furnishings was transported to a warehouse in Genting Lane, which is a brand new area rented by honestbee from March 1.
Lorries fetching furnishings at habitat / Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
Nonetheless, Vulcan Publish acquired an nameless tip-off that furnishings from habitat’s personal eating room was transported to honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann’s home as a substitute.
Lorry unloading furnishings at honestbee CEO Ong Lay Ann’s home / Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
These furnishings have been piled on a lorry, which was discovered parked within the driveway of his two-storey nook terrace at Jalan Tembusu.
It’s unclear what preparations have been made for these furnishings; it may very well be that Ong was merely briefly storing the furnishings at his place.
Honestbee Knee-Deep In Debt, However Its Items Are Taken For Free?
A number of sources near habitat additionally revealed to Vulcan Publish that honestbee administration and executives have been noticed freely taking items belonging to habitat, corresponding to groceries, cutleries and furnishings, for his or her private taking.
Based mostly on their understanding, these key executives didn’t pay for any of this stuff.
In a while February 11, honestbee’s HR division despatched out an e-mail to all workers informing them of an “inner gross sales occasion”.
Inner gross sales occasion / Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
In line with the e-mail, the Grocery crew carried out a “employees sale” on February 14 to “cut back wastage of perishables and gadgets with quick shelf-life through the momentary suspension interval.”
Workers might additionally buy “extra gear and workplace furnishings” from the previous workplace at Delta Home corresponding to laptops, tablets and workplace chairs.
Alternatively, a CCTV footage at habitat leaked to Vulcan Publish confirmed Ong and spouse serving to themselves on the beef counter, personally reducing and packing meat. Anthony Ung, honestbee’s vice-president of company technique, was additionally current.
Ong Lay Ann (in inexperienced) and Anthony Ung (in blue) / Picture Credit score: Vulcan PublishSharon Ong (center), Ong’s spouse and honestbee’s in-house authorized counsel / Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
The nameless supply shared that that they had bought the premium-grade beef at “method beneath value worth”.
In a while February 22, the couple was seen returning to habitat along with their household. The footage confirmed that they have been leisurely shopping and selecting out gadgets from cabinets.
Ong’s household selecting out gadgets from habitat cabinets / Picture Credit score: Vulcan PublishOng shopping an empty habitat / Picture Credit score: Vulcan PublishUnloading habitat items right into a automobile / Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
The group was then seen pushing the trolley full of products to the carpark and unloading them right into a automobile.
In line with the nameless supply, there was no data of purchases made on that date, which begs the query: did they pocket these groceries totally free?
Honestbee Axed Round 100 Singapore Employees, Owing Salaries
On March 9, honestbee laid off round 80 per cent of its employees.
Out of its 130-strong headcount, it axed round 100 workers. Most of these affected have been habitat’s operational employees in culinary, service, retail and warehousing.
Discover of redundancy despatched out by honestbee HR / Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
The above “discover of redundancy” was e-mailed to all affected employees on March 9 at 6pm.
When Vulcan Publish spoke to 11 of the retrenched employees, all of them mentioned that the discover got here as a shock. There was no prior notification, they usually have been upset that the corporate had no decency to tell them of this heavy information face-to-face.
Overseas staff, particularly, was flustered when their work passes was instantly cancelled.
Mainly, nobody noticed it coming. In truth, one ex-employee mentioned that the “finances for every division (was) nonetheless in place.” He pressured that it was enterprise as ordinary — since honestbee’s on-line enterprise was at its “peak”, there was “steady ordering and replenishment.”
One other mentioned that since honestbee had beforehand retrenched Singapore employees, he didn’t anticipate one other spherical of retrenchment so quickly. The earlier train already noticed every division downsized to solely 2 to three per cent, he added.
Following the termination, honestbee mentioned that it’s going to pay all affected employees “one-month discover”. At present, affected employees are owed salaries for the months of February and March.
Honestbee mentioned that the closure “has made it tough for the corporate to commit on fee phrases till additional funding could be secured”, but it surely has “no intention of shortchanging its workers”.
The agency had been anticipating a money injection of round $50 million from a “retail conglomerate”, though that deal has stalled as a result of COVID-19 and restructuring issues.
Talking to Vulcan Publish, the ex-employees mentioned that they haven’t any confidence that they are going to be getting the cash anytime quickly, particularly when honestbee didn’t present them with a compensation schedule.
Uncertainty And Confusion Amongst Workers
Previous to the layoff, the ex-employees mentioned that firm morale was very low as a result of “there was no sense of course”.
“(The workplace ambiance) was grim and uneasy. It began to really feel like every thing was going downhill very quick,” mentioned one, including that the administration didn’t assist to maintain firm morale excessive.
“Hushed conversations have been going round, and when employees requested for updates, (we didn’t get any) replies. Probably not understanding what was actually occurring made it uncomfortable to work.”
One other ex-employee agreed that there was an absence of communication and updates from the administration. Because the firm didn’t present clear communication on the enterprise plans, there was quite a lot of uncertainty.
“Questions on the plans goes unanswered from the highest administration (so) employees’s solely supply of knowledge comes from the information,” he added.
When requested why they didn’t select to give up after information reviews of the corporate’s monetary troubles surfaced, most mentioned they initially had religion that honestbee would be capable to pull by.
“Prime administration painted a wonderful future for the corporate, (with) claims on potential funding and work on the restructuring and relaunch plans,” mentioned one.
Since there have been “promising phrases of funding and funding”, they believed that there’s a probability for honestbee to rebuild the enterprise.
Some additionally mentioned that that they had tried to use for different jobs but it surely was tough to safe one. The current COVID-19 outbreak made issues worse as a result of it dampened the job market additional as many corporations froze their hiring.
For the foreigners, it was particularly laborious for them to search for one other job in Singapore because of the international employee quota.
Trying again on the retrenchment, many have been indignant on the method it was dealt with, without any consideration for the workers’ well-being.
“They’re so heartless to the employees that (has) helped them all through (all these years),” one mentioned.
“It might have been higher if the administration had up to date the employees often relatively than giving this false facade that every thing was nice.”
Habitat No Longer In Bees-ness, For Good
On March 10, honestbee confirmed that will probably be suspending its multi-million habitat grocery store.
Present state of habitat / Picture Credit score: Vuclan PublishPresent state of habitat / Picture Credit score: Vuclan Publish
In an earlier courtroom doc, Ong mentioned that honestbee is already contemplating the everlasting closure of habitat because the area incurs “vital overheads and dealing capital.”
This closure nevertheless, is in distinction to previously-announced plans to revamp the grocery store and the app. In October final 12 months, Ong shared plans to refresh habitat’s choice to reposition it in a extra premium class, and likewise construct a standalone app.
What’s additionally ironic is that this “new-gen retail area” was as soon as cited as a cornerstone of honestbee’s turnaround plan, and was meant to be a showcase for buyers.
Shifting ahead, honestbee has shared plans to pivot to a pizza joint alongside Higher East Coast Highway.
Will probably be working out of a shophouse unit it has leased from Ong himself “at market fee” for a 12 months.
Not a lot particulars concerning the pizza joint is thought in the intervening time as a result of they’re nonetheless “in very early phases of organising”. What’s clear is that will probably be a fast service F&B idea and a tech-enabled comfort retailer.
The idea will likely be much like habitat — they are going to be leveraging on its beforehand developed F&B ideas and capitalising on present applied sciences to spin-off quick-service eating places (QSRs).
These embrace the click-and-collect functionalities, Scan and Go characteristic, and its proprietary BeePay pockets.
“We even have prepared developed and software program infrastructure that may be repurposed for our new honestbee idea together with our digital kiosks, POS methods and honestbee app. Because of this we will likely be working at decrease prices from the get-go,” an honestbee spokesperson instructed
Honestbee’s subsequent courtroom listening to on its restructuring will happen on 26 March 2020.
It’s nonetheless beneath courtroom safety from its collectors, to whom it owes about US$230 million (S$319 million), and is presently looking for to cross a scheme of association that can restructure that debt.
Featured Picture Credit score: Vulcan Publish
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