Vanchai Chirathivat, chairman of diversified Central Group, Thailand's largest department store chain and a major shopping centre operator, has passed away at the age of 84.
Vanchai presided over the group’s steady expansion over the past several decades in Thai and overseas markets, marked by the recent acquisition of a major European department store chain which has 11 branches in Italy.
He is the second son of Tiang Chirathivat, founder of Central Group, which was established after World War II.
The original Central retail outlet was opened on Bangkok’s Si Phya Road, selling imported books, garments and cosmetics, among other goods.
Later, Vanchai and his late elder brother Samrit helped their father open the first Central department store in Bangkok’s Wang Burapha area.
In 1989, Vanchai became chairman of Central Group, after which he started to re-organise the fast-expanding diversified retail conglomerate for further expansion in both domestic and foreign markets.
Central Retail Corporation was set up to take charge of all retail activities, while Central Pattana Co became responsible for shopping centre development schemes.
The trading and wholesale businesses were grouped under Central Marketing Group while the hotel business is under Centara Hotels and Resorts and the fast-food business under Central Restaurants Group.
The diversified multibillion-baht business empire has been run by the Chirathivat Family Council, which consists of key members of the family, especially those from the second, third and fourth generations.
Sudhitham Chirathivat is now chairman of Central Group’s executive board. The group’s combined sales revenue is projected to top Bt188 billion this year, while the group’s combined investment outlay for 2012 is about Bt30 billion.
The group has also prepared for the Asean Economic Community, which will be effective in 2015, creating a single market of some 600 million consumers in 10 countries.
Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and China are among the top markets being eyed by Central Group.
Over the next five years, sales from overseas operations are projected to rise to more than 20 per cent of the total, up from the current 11 per cent, according to Sudhitham.