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OfficeMate on a roll

OfficeMate, a stationery and office-supply chain of Central Group, is expanding regionally to cash in on the Asean Economic Community, with its first outlet in Vietnam expected to open in a major city in 2016.

Vietnam is considered as having the most potential, followed by Malaysia. However, other nations such as Laos and Cambodia are also in its sights.

Chief executive officer Worawoot Ounjai said yesterday that in early stage, the budget for investment abroad was expected to run around Bt400 million to Bt500 million for the construction of a warehouse, products and store openings.

He declined to give details but said the 1,000-square-metre OfficeMate in Vietnam would cost about US$1 million (Bt32 million), which would be wholly paid by the company because it is easier for a listed company to raise funds from the stock market.

The five-to-10-year plan calls for 40-50 openings in Vietnam and 30-40 in Malaysia. The operations will rely on the Thai business model, which is to have its own warehouse and focus also on the catalogue, online and home-delivery businesses.

In Vietnam, the firm has started studying thoroughly all aspects of consumer lifestyles and purchasing power, investment legislation and logistics networks - a key to making its products more cost-competitive.

The company believes it enjoys an edge over rivals, not only in financial readiness, but also in its understanding of Asean consumers.

Domestically, the firm will continue investing. This year's budget is Bt900 million to open B2S bookstores and OfficeMates as well as to renovate existing stores.

About Bt400 million will be spent on OfficeMate. It intends to open eight stores this year for Bt300 million, taking the total to 56. The remaining Bt100 million will be for marketing campaigns.

The remaining budget of Bt500 million is allocated to B2S. About Bt300 million will go to opening 10 stores, taking the total to 95 by year-end, and 200 million to marketing activities.

The company expects sales to grow by 15-20 per cent annually over the next few years. Prosperity and the growing housing market have rapidly changed the provincial economic landscape. People in the provinces can follow new trends at the same time as those in Bangkok, thanks to online technology.

The contribution from the provinces to the company's sales is almost equal to Greater Bangkok's. In the future, it is expected to outgrow the capital.

This year, OfficeMate projects group sales to increase 20.5 per cent from Bt9.12 billion last year.


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