Stationery brand Kikki.K has become the latest prominent retailer to temporarily close its bricks-and-mortar stores, as Australia moves closer to fully shutting down non-essential businesses and services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The news comes almost three weeks since voluntary administrators and receivers were appointed to the business, which will continue to operate its online store.
In a statement on Saturday, Kikki.K said its 59 stores across the country have closed and about 440 employees have been stood down.
However, receiver Barry Wright from Cor Cordis confirmed the sale process for the company is still underway.
“Whilst the stores have temporarily closed due to COVID-19, we are continuing with our efforts to sell the business as a going concern, having had strong interest in the Kikki.K business to date,” he said in the same statement.
“Our online channels remain open for business, and we encourage all the long term guests of Kikki.K to continue to support us during this challenging period.”
Kikki.K has also temporarily closed its stores in New Zealand and the UK, and the company says it is closely monitoring the situation in Singapore and Hong Kong, although its stores there continue to trade.
In an email to Kikki.K employees, seen by SmartCompany, co-founders Kristina Karlsson and Paul Lacy said they will “continue to assess the possibility of re-opening our stores in this ever-changing situation”.
“While social distancing and health hygiene measures for our store teams and guests had been our focus to date, with the key aims of preserving jobs and being available for our guests, we’ve taken the decision that on balance now, the right course of action is to close temporarily,” the founders said.
“The economic and social health factors which have forced this decision are outside of the control of Kikki.K.”
Voluntary administrators and receivers were appointed to the Kikki.K business on March 10, and within 24 hours, nine interested buyers or partners had come forward. At the same time, in-store sales jumped 94% and online sales grew by 400%, according to emails seen by SmartCompany.
In their email to employees this week, Karlsson and Lacy reiterated that “sales online have grown substantially in recent weeks”.
“We expect most of our guests will simply switch from shopping in stores to shopping with us online,” they said.
The retailer is currently running a 40%-off sale on all full-priced items, and Karlsson and Lacy said the brand’s online followers will soon have access to more free content online, as well as Instagram Live events with Karlsson on topics such as ‘self-care in challenging times’, ‘gratitude as a way to get through tough times’, ‘how to organise a productive home workspace’ and ‘tips for supporting kids schooling from home’.
Kikki.K employees will also be given access to online sessions on similar themes, they said.
“It’s a profoundly challenging time, and the only way through is to work together and look after each other the best we possibly can,” said Karlsson.
Kikki.K joins a growing list of prominent Australian retailers moving to temporarily close their physical stores and stand down employees.
The Country Road Group — which includes Country Road, Mimco, Politix, Trenery and Witchery — closed all of its locations at the end of trade on Saturday, while 650 stores in the Cotton On Group, which includes the Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Factorie, Rubi Shoes and Supre brands, temporarily stopped trading at close of business on Sunday.
Department store Myer announced on Friday evening it would close its 60 stores as of Sunday evening, affecting 10,000 workers, while Kathmandu and Rip Curl have also shuttered their retail stores because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Premier Investments, the owner of Smiggle, Peter Alexander, Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Portmans, Jacqui E and Dotti, has also temporarily closed all of its stores in Australia.