Bangkok city out to corner luxury shoppers

Bangkok is a city of choice for international luxury-fashion brands as they strive to capture part of the skyrocketing increase in well-heeled Asian shoppers in the region.

While travellers from such markets as the United States, Europe and the Middle East are seeing their spending power shrink because of economic difficulties in their home countries, the number of big-spending tourists from Asian countries such as China has increased significantly in recent years.

Bangkok needs to make itself more competitive against Singapore and Hong Kong, which are now the oases of the luxury market in the region, said Satima Tanabe, deputy general manager of Gaysorn Shopping Centre.

"The luxury market in Thailand has been growing very fast, driven by the increasing number of quality tourists, mainly from Asia. We want to be a shopping hub for Asian tourists," she said.

The number of Asian tourists coming to Bangkok was between 15 million and 16 million last year and is expected to increase to 18 million this year.

About 70-80 per cent of the shoppers at Gaysorn are foreign tourists.

"Of the foreign tourists visiting our shopping mall, Asian shoppers have surged from 50 per cent in 2010 to 80-90 per cent last year," she said.

Narun Thamavaranukup, managing director of PMT The Hour Glass, a leading importer and distributor of luxury watch brands, said demand for high-end fashion products had continued to soar in Asia. Many international watch brands are looking to open and expand their boutiques in this region, especially in major shopping cities, he said.

Kuntol Boonkrajang, senior vice president for marketing at Central Pattana, a leading local developer of shopping malls, said international fashion brands has seen great potential in Thailand, which had encouraged them to open or even expand their retail networks in the Kingdom, mainly in key shopping destinations.

Compared with neighbouring countries, Thailand has a larger number of malls and is ready to be a destination for shoppers, especially from the region itself.

He said local shoppers now spend between Bt3,500 and Bt5,000 per visit at Central's shopping centres, while the figure is Bt10,000 per visit for foreign tourists.

Between 50 and 60 per cent of shoppers visiting its shopping malls are foreign tourists, mainly from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for CentralWorld in Bangkok and largely from Russia, India and Australia for CentralFestival in Pattaya, he said.

Pravit Janyasithikul, chief executive officer of Phuket Square, which operates the Jungceylon mall at Patong in the island province, said the company expected to increase the proportion of international fashion and restaurant brands at its shopping centre from 50-60 per cent currently to more than 80 per cent in the next couple of years.

Jungceylon has more than 300 retail units and enjoys an occupancy rate of 97.5 per cent.

He said the presence of more international retailers would help Jungceylon upgrade its image as a world-class shopping destination in Phuket and as the largest regional mall in southern Thailand.

"Many foreign shoppers come from developed countries and are familiar with and trust international brands," Pravit said.

About 60 per cent of the foreign shoppers at Jungceylon are from Europe, with the bulk of the remainder from Asia, notably Japan, South Korea and China.

Up to 40,000 shoppers a day normally visit Jungceylon during the low season from May to October. The number increases to 45,000-50,000 per day during the high season from November to April, he said.

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