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Firm running National Gallery Singapore shop closes doors, seeks liquidation with alleged S$500,000 debts

SINGAPORE — By AndCo, the firm behind Gallery & Co, a cafeteria and shop selling Singapore-made goods at the National Gallery Singapore, has closed its doors and is seeking liquidation after the Covid-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on the tourism-dependent business.

A preliminary estimate is that Gallery & Co, a shop and cafeteria at the National Gallery, owes about S$500,000 to creditors.

A preliminary estimate is that Gallery & Co, a shop and cafeteria at the National Gallery, owes about S$500,000 to creditors.

  • By AndCo, the firm behind gift and design shop Gallery & Co, sought voluntary liquidation on July 30
  • The liquidators, Perun Consultants, said that the estimated debts could be S$500,000
  • Several creditors are unhappy at the way the business treated them

 

SINGAPORE — By AndCo, the firm behind Gallery & Co, a cafeteria and shop selling Singapore-made goods at the National Gallery Singapore, has closed its doors and is seeking liquidation after the Covid-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on the tourism-dependent business.

Perun Consultants, the liquidator of By AndCo, told TODAY that it is collating the total amount owed to creditors, including small businesses and individuals who consigned the business goods. A preliminary estimate is that the shop owes about S$500,000.

The creditors include:

  • The Little Drom Store, which claims that it is owed S$12,000

  • Super Farmers, which produces urban farming kits

  • Accessory maker Heckin’ Unicorn

  • A Singapore artist who had consigned some copies of her books to the store

In a strongly worded Facebook post on Thursday (Aug 6), The Little Drom Store alleged that Gallery & Co, which started operating more than four years ago, had stopped paying it for the cultural products and other goods that it supplied and that had been sold since last November.

It also alleged that it has no access to S$30,000 worth of its goods that are still sitting in the shop.

“Ten years into the retail business, we have never felt so... disappointed before, with the team going radio silence on us. We trusted you, topped up goods promptly, agreed to a credit term and sponsored gifts for your events,” the store said, directing its comments at the firm.

The Little Drom Store was founded in 2010 by two graphic designers, husband-and-wife-team Stanley Tan and Antoinette Wong. They received an email from Perun Consultants on Thursday, informing them of the closure and asking them to show a proof of debt.

“S$12,000 might be loose change to you, but not to us," The Little Drom Store added. "It means (surviving) the retail downtime during Covid. It means supporting our other valuable and trustworthy stockists when they need help during this time. It means paying our kids’ school fees for an entire year.” 

'UTTERLY DISAPPOINTED' BY FIRM'S BEHAVIOUR

Ms Loh Xiang Yun, 32, an artist who consigned her self-published books with Gallery & Co, said that she had not received her expected payment of S$148.82 for goods sold since January.

She said that “months of chaser emails” had elicited just generic email replies stating that all unpaid invoices will be processed only when Gallery & Co reopens after the circuit breaker, but it never did. The shop closed in April when the circuit breaker to restrict business and social activities was imposed by the Government.

“I am utterly disappointed with the team behind Gallery & Co,” Ms Loh said.

Ms Cynthea Lam, 43, founder of wellness firm Super Farmers, also expressed “extreme” disappointment and said that no one replied to her firm’s emails asking about S$300 in payment owed for goods sold since January. She had previously faced problems getting payment.

Ms Lam said: “They never tried to make it work. They forgot that without vendors like us, all they would have are empty shelves.”

Heckin’ Unicorn, which started consigning its products with Gallery & Co from late February, said that it is owed around S$600.

Its founder, Mr Teo Yu Sheng, 29, said that Gallery & Co had not given any notice or alert on the liquidation, adding that he got the email notification only on Aug 3, while some others learnt about it on July 30.

In a separate statement on Facebook, the National Gallery said that it is seeking to resume operations for the museum store and cafeteria “as soon as possible”.

NO CERTAINTY ON LEVEL OF DEBT REPAYMENT

Speaking to TODAY, Mr Benjamin Thong of Perun Consultants, who is administering the liquidation, said that By AndCo’s directors placed the firm under a creditors’ voluntary liquidation on July 30, and that his team is still in the process of gathering information.

“As you know, there are many small creditors being affected, so we are trying to gather from them what is the amount of money that is owed to them,” he said.

Next, a shareholders’ meeting will be held to pass resolutions to put the company into liquidation before they would call a meeting with creditors to give further details and formalise the liquidation process, he said. These will take place over two weeks.

Mr Thong said that unsold goods on consignment will be returned.

However, he could not yet be sure whether sums owed to each merchant can be recovered, stressing that there is a due process as stated in the new Insolvency, Restructuring and Dissolution Act, which came into effect on July 30.

Mr Thong said: “It really depends on how much we can recover… As in any liquidation, it will be through a process. When there are sufficient funds to be recovered from the assets of the company, they will be distributed.”

He said that employee salaries would be paid first, along with satisfying government authorities, before suppliers could be paid.

'HEARTBREAKING'

Gallery & Co was founded by Ms Yu Yah-Leng and Mr Arthur Chin, who are directors of design studio Foreign Policy Design; Mr Alwyn Chong, managing director of Luxasia; and hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, founder and director of Unlisted Collection.

It announced its closure on Facebook on Friday afternoon and referred TODAY's queries to the liquidator.

In the Facebook post, the shop said that its business volume is unable to support its operating model despite its “best efforts”, adding that it is “hugely dependent on tourism and retail”, the very two sectors severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

It sought to assure affected parties by saying that the company’s assets and liabilities will be organised “in the fairest way possible by a neutral third party”.

“Please be assured that the liquidator will process our assets on hand as fairly as possible to the affected parties,” it said.

The Gallery & Co brand name will likely stay though, since it said that the National Gallery will be setting up a new management entity to operate it. Specific details are in the midst of being formulated, it added.

It then said: “For our supporters and friends, we feel your pain. It is heartbreaking. All of us are entrepreneurs who risked our capital and livelihood to pursue our passions. We wish this had ended on better terms… We hope our paths will cross again on much better terms.”

Related topics

Gallery & Co Covid-19 coronavirus business National Gallery Singapore

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