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KT Optic takes sharp look at expanding in emerging Asean

Chatchavan Vanitpisit, left, executive director of KT Optic, and his younger brother Sumet Vanitpisit, director, launch Ray-Ban Aviator Solid Gold, a limited-edition sunglasses model with 1,200 units to be sold around the world, only 10 of them in Thailan

Chatchavan Vanitpisit, left, executive director of KT Optic, and his younger brother Sumet Vanitpisit, director, launch Ray-Ban Aviator Solid Gold, a limited-edition sunglasses model with 1,200 units to be sold around the world, only 10 of them in Thailan

Three-year plan for joint venture stores

KT Optic plans to expand its network in emerging markets in Asean, particularly Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, within three years, said executive director Chatchavan Vanitpisit.

"We have been approached by vendors from many emerging markets such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos on partnership possibilities to open our optical-product stores in their markets," he said. "We are considering forming joint ventures for the expansion of our network of optical stores in those markets."

Chatchavan said the market for optical stores in many such countries was at an early stage of development. Myanmar and Laos might be the first two countries the company goes into. There are currently about 10 stores in each of those countries selling eyeglasses and all of them are owned by local entrepreneurs.

KT Optic started its retail business in 1975 with a small store in Nakhon Sawan under the Krungthai Optic name. It was the first optical shop in that province to offer an autorefractor service - a computerised eye-examination system.

Five years later, the company started to spread its optical sales and services to other provinces such as Chai Nat, Phitsanulok, Kamphaeng Phet and Uthai Thani, via mobile units.

Changing its name to KT Optic, the company started to focus on retail expansion in 1990. Since then, about 200 stores have been opened throughout the Kingdom under its own investment and it has become the second largest in the market. About 22 new stores have been opened this year.

The company plans to open another 10 stores in Thailand next year under a budget of Bt60 million for store expansion and renovation. The average investment for a flagship store will be Bt8 million to Bt10 million, and about Bt4 million for a standard store. Most of the new stores will be in community malls and shopping centres.

Its target customers are upper-middle-income earners.

The firm expects to post Bt950 million in retail sales this year, up 5 per cent over last year.

Chatchavan said the optical-store market in Thailand was at a mature stage, with a small growth rate of only 5 per cent per annum. The market is anticipated to be worth about Bt6 billion this year, of which 30 per cent are sunglasses and the rest corrective lenses and frames.

Top Charoen, the market leader, has operates about 3,000 outlets, while No 3 firm Better Vision has more than 120 stores.

"We expect more sales of optical products will be conducted via e-commerce in the future. For our company, the sales proportion via online trade will increase significantly from less than 1 per cent currently to about 20 per cent in the next 10 years," Chatchavan said.

KT Optic has set up its own website, ktoptic.com, to cash in on this new trend.


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