At roughly 300 stores per million people similar to Malaysia and Singapore, compared to an average of 50 in Vietnam or Indonesia, plus online shopping, the Thai multi-brand retail scenario is comparable to that in the US or west Europe.
All its formats permeate the city: cash and carry usually wholesale, monstrous hypermarkets, supermarkets, smaller “express” shops, the ubiquitous “Sevens” and their main competitor, Family Mart, that dot almost every Bangkok soi. Big retail currently handles close to half the total value of a retail trade worth around $480 billion.
Wet-markets and traditional grocery stores account for the other half, but with a relatively lower rate of growth, this share is projected to fall.MNCs like Tesco UK and Grand Casino France—though curiously not Walmart—found an easy entry into the Thai retail ecosystem after the 1997 financial crisis.
FDI rules from the ’70s, when Thailand was under military rule, allowed foreign equity over 50 per cent, with a high discretionary element in permissions. Legislation in 1999—in the wake of the crisis—repealed that and permitted foreign firms to hold up to 60 per cent of equity, with a caveat to ensure there were Thai companies competing in the sector.