It’s gone from mom-and-pop to mega-malls in just a few decades, but zoning and catering to consumers will determine the next step writes Aliwassa Pathnadabutr, Managing Director of CB Richard Ellis Thailand. With an official population of just under 10 million and a growing middle class, Bangkok boasts a remarkably dynamic retail property market.

Thailand’s history of retailing dates back to the days of family businesses run out of shophouses, and has evolved to include some of Asia’s largest and most glamorous shopping malls.In the past 20 years, expansion from the central business district CBD to midtown and suburban locations coupled with economic growth and changing consumer behaviours have helped the retail industry evolve to encompass the latest trade concepts,with newer formats emerging all the time.

It is clear that the preference for Thai consumers is for “onestop shopping”. Mega-malls such as Siam Paragon, CentralWorld and CentralPlaza Lat Phrao have been immensely successful with the concept of everything under one roof. Picture: Central Pattaya

The progression began with the opening of the country’s first 7-Eleven in 1988, followed by the hypermarket boom in 1990-97 with Tesco Lotus, Makro and Big C the key players.In 1997, the Emporium shopping complex opened, followed by Siam Paragon in 2005 and CentralWorld, a major renovation of the former World Trade Centre, in 2007. The opening of Major Cineplex Pin Klao also marked an important step as Major is now the country’s largest cinema operator.

The most recent milestone for the retail property industry has been the emergence of community malls. Developed in 2002 and 2004, Market Place and J-Avenue in Thong Lor by SF Group were the capital’s first successful community malls and have led to the development trend we are seeing today. Both projects pioneered a new retail format that is now found in many city and suburban locations, with retail spaces of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 square metres plus ample car parking and open spaces.

Thailand’s retail industry is dominated by local players.

Retail giants such as The Mall Group and Central Pattana are so strong in the market that they leave limited chances of success for foreign retailers to penetrate – unlike China, Vietnam and other Asian economies where foreign retailers have ramped up their expansion plans. Singaporebased CapitaLand, for example, currently operates 38 malls in China, with 15 more under construction.

In Thailand’s retail history we have had foreign department store chains such as Galeries Lafayette in Seacon Square,Tokyu in Ratchadaphisek and Sogo in Phloenchit, but these all finally closed as they did not meet Thai consumers’ preference. The competition now remains local, such as Siam Piwat which has successfully renovated Seri Centre into Paradise Park, SF – now an established community mall leader and currently developing Mega Bang Na,one of Bangkok’s largest malls – and Land & Houses, a big player in residential but a newcomer in retail is currently developing Terminal 21 in Asoke.

One of the key drivers of the retail evolution is consumer behaviour.

It is clear that the preference for Thai consumers is for “onestop shopping”. Mega-malls such as Siam Paragon, CentralWorld and CentralPlaza Lat Phrao have been immensely successful with the concept of everything under one roof from department stores, supermarkets,ancillary malls to a multiplex cinema. However, the development of mega-malls is constrained by several factors. Within the main CBD, the market is now fully developed and there is a lack of suitable development sites. To build mega-malls, a large prime site is mandatory.

The only two remaining CBD sites at present are the former British Embassy site on Phloenchit Road, which is being developed into Central Embassy, and the former Suan Lum Night Bazaar site on the corner of Witthayu and Rama IV roads, also earmarked for a retail development. Other than this, the competition for mega-malls within the CBD will be kept to renovation and facelifts of existing developments.

Read the complete story on Bangkok’s Evolving Retail Miracle | Thailand Property News.

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