The Songkran Festival period is not just a long holiday when people spend time with their family, travel and engage in fun activities - it is also an important time of the year for major retailers in terms of boosting sales and bonding with customers.
According to a survey by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, consumer spending during the Songkran holidays is forecast to rise by just 2.36 per cent this year, the lowest increase in four years, because of the impact of the prolonged political turbulence.
Chamnarn Maytaprechakul, executive vice president of The Mall Group, said Songkran was traditionally one of the major spending periods of the year, with no less than Bt20 billion expected to be spent in Bangkok by consumers during the long holiday.
"Despite the political difficulties, a higher number of Bangkokians will spend time during the Songkran holidays relaxing and taking part in activities in the capital, and less of them will travel upcountry this year.
"We saw this as providing a greater opportunity to launch more marketing activities in Bangkok during Songkran. For this year, the number of Bangkokians not travelling upcountry during Songkran is expected to increase by between 15 and 20 per cent from last year’s level," he said.
"Our strategy during Songkran is to focus on offering special discounts for leading brands. Based on a recent report by Kasikorn Research Centre, running a discount campaign is the marketing activity that has highest effect on the decision-making process of shoppers during Songkran.
"Overall, political unrest and the higher cost of living are the two major problems affecting the spending of consumers at this time. Launching such marketing activities proactively is necessary to stimulate the economy back to normal," Chamnarn said.
Every branch of The Mall is holding Songkran activities from yesterday through Tuesday under the "Colour Summer Splash" concept, which is projected to increase customer traffic by 10-15 per cent.
The Mall Group’s Songkran activities and promotions are expected to generate sales of at least Bt2 billion, he added.
Piyawan Leelasompop, vice president for marketing at Central Department Store, described Songkran as a festival of happiness and a period during which most Thais take a long holiday, and that this involved shopping – with consumers buying everything they need to prepare themselves for a long holiday trip, including gifts for friends and relatives.
During Songkran, most people participate in out-of-home activities, such as dining out and shopping, which encourages spending and benefits the overall economy, said the executive.
According to the Bank of Thailand, overall nationwide spending from today through Tuesday will reach Bt470 billion, some 3 per cent higher than in the same period last year.
Many Bangkokians have decided not to travel upcountry during Songkran as they want to avoid traffic congestion, as well as the higher accommodation and living costs over the period.
Central Department Store branches have already seen a significant increase of sales and customer traffic over the early days of the extended Songkran period, Piyawan said.
Attractive promotions are being held by the chain to stimulate sales over the holiday period, as well as cooperating with Siam Commercial Bank to launch the "SCB Up2Me Easy Pay" programme, which allows shoppers to make payments through the SCB Up2Me Easy Pay mobile application via its QR (quick response) code technology.
Meanwhile, Tesco Lotus Marketing director Wanna Swuddigul said: "Songkran is an important time of the year for Thai people. Tesco Lotus has prepared a wide range of products at low prices, as well as a convenient online shopping service to help customers celebrate the Thai New Year the way they like. We believe a large number of people plan to have fun and the sales of our water guns will grow at a good rate."
Tesco Lotus hopes to bring more fun for everyone in the family this Songkran with water-splashing sets of all kinds, with spray guns ranging from the tiny to the enormous and costing from Bt39, while comfy Songkran shirts start at Bt78.
For merit-making, there is a special Bt299 alms basket with a limited buy-one, get-one-free offer, Wanna said.
Holding a Songkran party for family and friends is also easier this year with the Tesco Lotus Shop Online service, as customers can buy food, drinks and other essential items online and have them delivered to their doorstep, the director added.
Netithorn Praditsarn, director of corporate affairs at Big C Supercenter, said the company believed Songkran remained an important holiday period for Thais and, as a retailer close to the local community, promoting the Thai tradition was always the Big C goal.
Songkran is the biggest festival during the second quarter and has always been a tradition for both Thais and foreigners in Thailand to celebrate the occasion. For this reason, Big C has introduced Songkran campaigns fit for any budget, he said.
"We maintain our price leadership and fun shopping atmosphere in each store. We have full varieties of food items, daily necessities and all electronic equipment for the holidays," he added.
There are big promotions on more than 500 items, with discounts of 10-20 per cent, sometimes even more. Products range from water guns costing as little as Bt6 to fancy ones with LINE characters, many of which are buy one, get one free.
Grand event at CentralWorld
Meanwhile, Central Pattana’s executive vice president for marketing, Nattakit Tangpoonsinthana, said: "The ‘M2F Presents Bangkok Songkran Festival 2014 @ CentralWorld’ is being staged at a Bangkok lifestyle and shopping landmark which is the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia. The event is being organised in the hope of transforming the CentralWorld compound into a new focus of the Songkran Festival at the heart of Bangkok.
"We are committed to promoting ‘M2F Presents Bangkok Songkran Festival 2014 @ CentralWorld’ as an event that combines people and tourists who want to experience joy, happiness and fun during the Songkran Festival at CentralWorld.
"To ensure the availability of sufficient space, the shopping centre has prepared large areas both within and outside the building. These include the square at the front of the main building, as well as public facilities and parking spaces for up to 7,000 cars. The arrangements will ensure maximum safety and convenience for participants.
"We have also ensured security by increasing the number of guards. We will also keep the place clean by increasing the number of maids covering the area. I am confident that everyone who comes along will enjoy the event. Our thanks go to all participating organisations who have joined forces with us for their strong support."
Besides the grand CentralWorld event, Songkran festivals will be held at eight other branches of Central Pattana’s shopping complexes around the country.
Buppa Lapawattanaphun, a strategic communications lecturer at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said business players should segment their Bangkok target customers in an effort to make their marketing campaigns during Songkran more effective.
The segments should cover Bangkokians who will stay home during the holiday period, those who travel upcountry, as well as provincial people returning to their home towns to stay with family during the long holidays.
"Individual consumers have different lifestyles and interests, even in terms of what they will do and how they manage their lives during the long Songkran break. A mass campaign [covering all segments] to stimulate sales may not work," she said.
Buppa said many businesses would benefit from Songkran, such as telephone network providers, fuel stations, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls, as well as suppliers of electrical appliances.
"Businesses need to focus on a Songkran campaign not only to boost sales, but also to create a good experience and impression for individual consumers at any touch-point. The move will help promote loyal customers for the brand and the company itself," she added.