Yuwadee Chirathivat, second from left, chief executive officer of Central Department Store Group, together with other panellists at the
Yuwadee Chirathivat, second from left, chief executive officer of Central Department Store Group, together with other panellists at the

More needed to be ‘paradise’

Economy August 06, 2016 01:00


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ALTHOUGH the government and tourism-related authorities are doing a good job in encouraging Thai and international tourists to travel and shop in Thailand, much still needs to be done by the state and retailers in order to make the country a true “shoppin

Yuwadee Chirathivat, chief executive officer of Central Department Store Group, said that according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thai tourists spent about Bt210 billion last year in travelling abroad, with 30 per cent of their expenditure accounted for by shopping.

Chinese tourists, who rank as the top spenders in the tourism sector around the world, especially when travelling in Europe, usually spend about half of their overall expenditure on shopping when travelling to destinations around the world.

When visiting Thailand, however, tourists from China spend only 15 per cent of their expenditure on shopping, she said.

“What Thailand [the government] and related authorities should do is to encourage Thai and international tourists to travel and shop more in Thailand. When people travel, they tend to spend more,” the CEO said.

“Thailand already provides good service and hospitality. What we should do is develop Thai products to ensure better quality and branding. The prices of shopping products, especially international luxury brands, should be lowered via the reduction of import tariffs,” Yuwadee stressed.

Speaking at the “How Thai Retailing Giants are Building the Country into a Shopping Paradise” forum, held on Wednesday by the Harvard Business School Association of Thailand, she said many shopping destinations in Asean had already reduced their import duties on such items in order to lure shoppers – and it would therefore also be a practical move for the Kingdom to make.

“The retail prices of international luxury brands selling in Europe are between 35 per cent and 40 per cent cheaper than [the same items] in Thailand. Many international vendors of luxury brands operate their business in Thailand with a very thin margin, as they need to make their retail prices as close as possible to those in foreign markets,” she explained.

Largest spenders

Yuwadee said that baby boomers and generation-X consumers were the two largest spenders in the shopping industry today, but retailers also needed to trace the demand and behaviour of future shoppers, such as those in the Y and Z generations, in order to offer products and services that meet their shopping requirements, including online shopping.

“Retailers need to create a good complementary between online and offline to serve whatever demands are raised by new-generation shoppers, whether home delivery, shopping online or picking up offline. We need to provide all the services for individual customers to choose from,” she told the forum.

At the same event, Chadatip Chutrakul, CEO of Siam Piwat, said she agreed with Yuwadee’s remarks on defining today’s shopping mall as a person’s “second home, where they can enjoy a good time and get new inspirations”.

In order to make Thailand a true shopping paradise, Thainess should be strategically promoted and exposed to international markets, she suggested.

“To maintain competitiveness in tourism, Thailand needs to promote its distinctive strength of Thainess, as placed in products, services and unique local wisdom. They are the core values of our country,” she said.

“What we have been doing to support the government’s ‘Pracha Rath’ project is trying to bring the best products out of every city. We are enhancing greater standards for the products and adding value to the quality,” Chadatip said, adding that vendors needed to |sell community products with |a greater value and at higher prices.

She also told the audience that ‘millennials’ were soon-to-be consumers that local retailers should increasingly pay attention to.

People in this category are not attached to any brand names, but love to create their own styles. For millennials, she said, everything was about the automated world.

They love their hyper-connected lives and want to explore new things all the time, she added.

“Nowadays, people tend to buy general products online and look for better deals. However, when they go to physical stores and shopping malls, they go for the experience and new inspiration. Retailing is the provision of these experiences,” Chadatip said.

The chief executive also commented on the government’s efforts to promote the arrival of more quality tourists to the country.

“What we have seen is that there are more quality tourists coming to Bangkok. They buy more and stay longer. They don’t come here just to shop, but go everywhere. This is good, as it spreads income to other places around the country,” she said.

Aswin Techajareonvikul, chairman of the executive committee at Big C Supercenter, said his company was ready to be a cogwheel in the government’s policy to make Thailand a major shopping hub in the region.

“We will provide tourists with valuable information, as well as a good experience about Thailand,” he said.

Big C Ratchadamri is a good example of this, as the complex welcomes many tourists from China and Vietnam, he added.