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Build it and they will come: Thai developers pour billions into retail

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Build it and they will come: Thai developers pour billions into retail

By Chayut Setboonsarng

 

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FILE PHOTO: Thailand's first flagship Apple store is seen at Iconsiam shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand November 7, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's new ultra-luxurious Iconsiam shopping complex opens its doors on Saturday, shrugging off a decline in tourist arrivals and political uncertainty ahead of next year's elections.

 

"I wanted to build something that would tell the million stories of 'Thainess'," says Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of Siam Piwat, the firm behind Iconsiam, a half-million-square meter (sqm) complex sits on the banks of Bangkok's Chao Praya River.

 

The retail sector is a rare bright spot in Thailand where the economy lags regional peers, even while growing at 4.6 percent.

 

Developers have $4 billion in retail investments in the pipeline, outstripping new projects in Jakarta, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.

 

Retail sales growth reached a five-year high in August this year, up 17 percent from a year ago, much of it in malls.

 

This growth may be the dominant factor in Chadatip's rock-solid confidence. Bangkok is expected to add more retail floor space than any city in Southeast Asia this year.

 

Siam Piwat’s malls at the centre of Bangkok's shopping district were closed off at the height of civil unrest that ultimately led to Thailand's 2014 military coup.

 

"There were mobs in front of our shopping centres...we closed for three months - I survived," she said in an interview with Reuters. "We announced [Iconsiam] three weeks after the coup."

 

New retail projects are being planned even as Thailand prepares for elections that senior government officials have said would likely be on Feb. 24.

 

The elections will pit supporters of the military and royalist establishment against populist political forces led by the Puea Thai Party that was ousted by the military in a 2014 coup.

 

Thailand's political turmoil discouraged tourism growth, which also slowed after a boat accident killed dozens of Chinese tourists in July, but these concerns have not deterred developers. https://tmsnrt.rs/2PgR9wd

 

Siam Piwat's Chadatip says she believes there are good opportunities in Thailand and tourism will recover.

 

MORE CLICKS WITH BRICKS

 

Even e-commerce in Thailand is turning to malls. JD.com-backed <JD.O> fashion retailer Pomelo saw an untapped customer segment after experimenting with pop-up stores, said CEO David Jou. "We found that some customers didn't feel comfortable making their first purchase online, but liked our products." The Bangkok-based startup, which has its fifth store in Iconsiam, where e-commerce is growing, says physical stores familiarise customers with products before they place digital orders. Shops create brand recognition and double as a pick-up point for online orders, simplifying logistics, he said.

 

SHOPPING BUT NOT SPENDING

 

But with mammoth retail developments going up and Thai household debt at 77.6 percent of GDP, some are questioning the sustainability of recreational shopping. "People like going to malls...but are they purchasing goods?" asks Adithep Vanabriksha, Chief Investment Officer at Aberdeen Asset Management (Thailand). Bangkok currently has 7.5 million sqm of retail space with another million in planned, nearly double what similar cities have lined up.

 

This breakneck expansion risks creating a supply glut such as seen in Kuala Lumpur and when foot traffic through malls doesn't lead to sales, Thai retailers and developers are already working together to boost spending.

 

Pomelo is looking into partnerships with stores to tap into customer loyalty programs. There must be data-sharing on footfall and spending between landlords and tenants, which will require big investments in data analytics, says James Pitchon, Executive Director of real estate consulting firm CBRE in Bangkok, noting that "retail's not dead, but it's very complicated".

 

CHANGING UP THE MIX

 

Another retail approach is to harness the convenience of the mixed-use project.

 

One Bangkok, a venture of Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s Fraser Property <FRPL.SI> and TCC Asset’s $3.5 billion, will devote half of its 1.83 million sqm development to offices, a quarter for retail, and the remainder for hotels and attractions. "We already have a captive population right there," Su Lin Soon, CEO (Development) of One Bangkok told Reuters in an interview.

 

Infrastructure investments and a government policy that draws in foreign investors will also benefit the project, which is expected to complete its first phase in 2022, Soon adds.

 

LA Staples-owner AEG and the Mall Group also announced $300 million in ventures including a 16,000 seat entertainment and retail complex.

 

The challenge to Thailand's retail success is keeping shopping centre visits engaging and fresh, says CBRE's Pitchon."You need a reason to go...and it has to be a unique experience. Is it instagram-able?"

 

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All about mindless consumption and promotion thereof.

 

Such a lovely forced upon trait.

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Iconsiam: Thailand's largest shopping mall opens in Bangkok

By Kupluthai Pungkanon 
The Nation Weekend 

 

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The interior has 16-metre gilded pillars in exquisite and graceful Thai patterns designed by celebrated artist Preecha Thaothong, illustrating the story of Suvarnabhumi, the Golden Land./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

At Iconsiam, magnificent art and architecture evoking the Golden Land of legend temper luxury consumerism

 

BANGKOK, only a small trading post in the 15th century when Ayutthaya ruled the known world, became the capital of Siam 236 years ago, superseding Thon Buri on the opposite bank of the Chao Phraya River.

It’s certainly undergone much radical change since then, mainly in the last 50 years, while Thon Buri – the capital for just 14 years – has remained its quiet neighbour. 

 

Now, though, Iconsiam – the most expensive mixed-use development in Thai history at a price tag of Bt54 billion – is about to change the face of Thon Buri and the lifestyles of its residents forever. 

 

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn officially opened the newest landmark on Charoen Nakhon Road yesterday in what was billed as a “Mega Phenomenon”. The event at dusk was by invitation only, but everyone can join in the rest of the opening festivities today and tomorrow.

 

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Drone lights add to the illumination for Iconsiam’s starstudded gala opening in Thon Buri yesterday, some 1,500 drones soaring above the Chao Phraya River./Nation: Ratchanon Intharagsa

 

An impressive line-up of foreign entertainers was on hand for the official opening, among them South Korean superstars Choi Si-won and Kim Dong-jun, Taiwanese boy band F4 and American singer Alicia Keys. Also spotted on the red carpet were Dan Stevens, Kenny G and Naomi Watts.

 

The grand event, which is said to have cost Bt1 billion, shone a spotlight on Thailand’s rich heritage, showcasing both traditional and contemporary art and cultural performances in parallel with shows from overseas.

 

“Iconsiam was created to glorify the proud stories covering every dimension of Thainess by presenting them in exciting ways, blending them with the ultimate gracefulness of the unique Thai identity and putting them together in one venue,” said Chadatip Chutrakul, one of the project’s directors. “The development brings together the best Thailand has to offer and projects Thainess onto the world stage.”

 

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The design spaces of the retail complexes /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

Iconsiam, a joint venture of Siam Piwat, Magnolia Quality Development Corp and Charoen Pokphan Group, has seen experts in various disciplines from many countries collaborating with local communities to build a new symbol representing the vision of an era that will make all Thais proud. 

 

In term of architecture, the two modern retail complexes, Iconsiam and Iconluxe, are closely associated with cultural values and beliefs tied to the Chao Phraya River, including inspirations from the krathong and baisri, the way a krathong is folded, translating traditional Thai design signatures into modern interpretations. 

 

The Iconluxe complex resembles three glass krathong with the facade stretching 300 metres along the river. A special glass is used to create vertical pleats all over the complex and is inspired by a traditional Thai dress with a pleated wrap shawl.

 

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The ceiling is adorned with the light sculpture “Flow”, created by British outfit Haberdashery and Preecha Thaothong. /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

World-class brands in all categories, including fashion, jewellery and electronics, have been quick to show their confidence in the new location. The first Apple Store in Thailand is one of the highlights and is represented by a specially designed replica of the Thai alphabet symbol “aor”, which links the first letters of “Apple” and of “Iconsiam” in Thai. 

 

Super brands such as Gucci, Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Bvlgari, and Bottega Veneta are all here, and Hermes takes luxury one step further by opening an elegant duplex store. The British brand Cos also has a duplex, while JD Sport, one of the top retailers in the UK, has chosen Iconsiam for its first flagship store in Thailand. Triplex stores house such big names in street fashion such as H&M and Urban Revivo.

 

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The first Apple Store in Thailand boasts a specially designed replica of the Thai alphabet symbol “aor”, which links the first letters of “Apple” and “Iconsiam”. 

/Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

Patek Philippe is also answering “Present!”, operating its biggest store in Southeast Asia with a floor space of 223 square metres. Narun Thammavaranukup, managing director of PMT the Hour Glass, importer of Patek Philippe, says the location of Iconsiam is the main attraction.

 

“The positioning is unique. We have a great profile of loyal customers on this side of the river too. It’s surrounded by five-star hotels, and is certain to become a major destination in Bangkok. Thais are among the most sophisticated watch collectors.” 

 

Opras Lavichant, chief executive of Pacifica Group, distributor of high-end fashion brands Coach, Max Mara, Furla, Etro, Camper, Kenneth Cole and Keds, also has great expectations and sees a very positive future for Iconsiam.

 

“This place is not just a shopping mall but a lifestyle venue. The tenant list is complete and the decor is truly beautiful. All the brands in our group will be represented here. Coach and Nyx will have their own stores with the full range of product lines,” he says.

 

Iconsiam is also home to the first branch of Siam Takashimaya, which is taking up 35,000sqm of floor space.

Japan’s most iconic department store, it was founded in 1831 in Kyoto and is today led by Shigeru Kimoto. 

 

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The first branch of Siam Takashimaya takes up 35,000sqm, combining the best of Thai and Japanese retailing./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

Siam Takashimaya combines the best of Thai and Japanese retailing, with Kimoto writing in the official press release that products from more than 530 brands, 80 of them newcomers to Thailand, will be on sale. “The staff is ready to give you a warm Japanese welcome – omotenashi. We believe that every customer will be impressed with our hospitality,” he says.

 

Anujtha Jaovisidha, director of Jao Prosperity, which is operating four food outlets at Siam Takashimaya – Kimukatsu Toku restaurant, Ichii Jidoriya, Azabu Zabo and Qpot Caf้ – is very impressed by the development. 

“At first I was concerned about commuting to the shopping complex, but the shuttle boat is very convenient. I think it will be a great tourist destination. 

 

“Siam Takashimaya is very Japanese with an exquisite and detailed-oriented design. Thais are already familiar with Japanese products. I’m sure they’ll like shopping here, and the prices are reasonable too, on a par with Japan,” she says. 

 

9ad82f63b0a87087518a8c9ebe7251ae.jpeg

The interior has 16-metre gilded pillars in exquisite and graceful Thai patterns designed by celebrated artist Preecha Thaothong, illustrating the story of Suvarnabhumi,

the Golden Land./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

And there’s plenty more to do than just shop, including admiring the masterpieces created by more than 100 artists and architects, both local and foreign.

 

Associate Professor Preecha Thaothong has translated his vast knowledge of the aesthetics, philosophy and ethics of Suvarnabhumi – the “golden land”, an ancient name of this region – into the interior design, with exquisite and graceful patterns gilded on four majestic 16-metre pillars. The Thai patterns are chronologically ordered by era, from Ban Chiang, Champasak, Funan, Nanchao, Dvaravati and Chiang Saen to Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Rattanakosin.

 

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The “Pillars of Auspiciousness” by Professor Thavorn Koudomvit symbolise prosperity./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

In this he has been ably assisted by artist Thavorn Ko-udomvit, who has turned natural elements considered auspicious in traditional Thai culture into a design printed with real leaves on the pillars. These auspicious leaf prints are in gold, symbolising the value and brilliance of each civilisation. 

 

Lasvit, a leading chandelier designer and manufacturer from the Czech Republic, has come up with a one-of-the-kind crystal chandelier called “Joy”, while light-sculpture expert Haberdashery from England is behind the “Flow” sculpture. 

 

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Sook Siam brings together the best of local must-buy items and foods from all 77 provinces./Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

And showcasing the rich heritage of Thai history and culture, Sooksiam brings together the best of Thai brands in all categories, from fashion to handicrafts to must-buy items from all 77 provinces. 

 

Artists from every region have come together to preserve precious local wisdom. Visitors can explore the whole of Thailand and fully appreciate the stories and inspirations behind these art pieces simply by scanning the QR Code provided next to them.

 

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Outdoor river park /Nation:Tanachai Pramarnpanich

 

Outside, meanwhile, the 10,000sqm River Park boasts the longest multimedia water feature in Southeast Asia, costing Bt400 million, and a huge stage adorned with a sculpture by National Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

 

STILL MORE TO COME

 

 The River Museum Bangkok, set to open in July, will be Thailand’s first world-class museum complex bringing together the historical and cultural heritage of the country under one roof. 

 

Free shuttle buses run from BTS Taksin (Exit 2) and BTS Krung Thonburi (Exit 1) every 10 to 15 minutes from 8am to 11.30pm.

 

Free shuttle boats are provided at four piers – Sathorn, CAT Telecom, Si Praya and Ratchawong – and run every 10 to 15 minutes from 9 to 11.

 

The mass transit Gold line, which will connect with the Green, Red and Purple lines, is currently under construction, as are four more piers to support water travel via private yacht, boats and ferries.

 

Find out more at www.Iconsiam.com.

 

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/lifestyle/30358261

 

 
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-- © Copyright The Nation 2018-11-10

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If I had 4 billion, it would be enough, I could have a good time on that.

Why would you want 5 billion?

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