MAJOR RETAILERS and shopping-mall operators are impressed with the junta's performance in the month since it seized power on May 22, thanks to its efforts to return happiness to the people and boost the economy.
Chatrchai Tuongratanaphan, executive director of the Thai Retailers Association, said the positive impact had not however yet fully reached the retail sector.
“The retail industry is a downstream business and it could take another three to four months to feel the benefit. What I can say at the moment is that the shopping mood of people has already returned to the normal level. It is definitely a good sign,” he said.
While the junta recently accelerated long-overdue payments to farmers for the rice they had pledged to the former government, those rice growers would spend the money on priorities such as repaying debt and buying agricultural inputs, he said.
“We anticipate the overall retail market will increase by between 6 per cent and 8 per cent this year, up from about 6.3-per-cent growth posted last year,” said Chatrchai.
The situation was already better in May and June compared to the first quarter, when the retail market slowed to growth of just 3-5 per cent, he added.
Chai Srivikorn, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association (RSTA), said the most important thing the junta had achieved to date was to bring peace back to the country, with law and social order starting to be strictly enforced again.
Since taking power, many economy-stimulus measures have been launched by the junta, including the release of the annual public budget and the drawing up of an economic road map, he said, adding that |this had encouraged the injection |of money into the system, causing the economy to start to turn |around.
“What we have seen over the past month is that the number of foreign tourists has started to pick up significantly,” said Chai.
The number of foreign visitors to the Ratchaprasong district has dropped by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent this year, while the occupancy rate at major hotels in the district slumped from 70 per cent to just 30 per cent during the political unrest.
However, occupancy has already rebounded to 40 per cent, while a full recovery of foreign tourists in the area, especially from China, Russia and the Middle East, should be seen in the third or fourth quarters, he forecast.
“The junta needs to explain to the world, however, what it is doing is to reset and reform Thailand and take the country forward,” said Chai.
“What I would like the junta to do next is to promote Thailand as a market place with a diversity of products, not only foreign, but also Thai brands.
They should reduce the import duty charged on raw materials used in the production of fashion products, such as apparel, from 30-60 per cent down to 20 per cent. Such a new tax structure would encourage Thai manufacturers to produce quality fashion goods at lower cost and enable them to compete with the foreign brands,” he suggested. The RSTA, in cooperation with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and VISA, yesterday launched a major campaign – “Ratchaprasong Grand Sale 2014” – aimed at boosting sales in the second half of the year, as well as attracting Thai and foreign shoppers back to the district.
Sirichai Praphunturakit, executive vice president – property management, The Platinum Fashion Mall – a wholesale centre for fashion apparel and goods – said that everything had tended to improve since the junta took power.
The number of Thai visitors at The Platinum has risen from 30,000 to 40,000 a day over the past month, while the number of foreign visitors was also picking up significantly.
“We would like to urge the junta to speed up their clarification with foreign communities around |the world to create a better understanding about Thailand,” said Sirichai.
The Platinum will host a major clearance sale from July 31 to August 4 in cooperation with over 1,000 tenant shops within the complex, offering special discounts of up to 80 per cent.
Chamnarn Maytaprechakul, executive vice president of The Mall Group, said the junta’s power seizure had meant that further political violence in the capital was very unlikely.
During the time of unrest, many malls located in sensitive areas could not make any long-term business plans, and marketing activities were at risk due to the uncertain climate.
“In the past month, we have seen positive signs. We have also started to apply a more proactive strategy to drive growth,” said Chamnarn.