By KWANCHAI RUNGFAPAISARN
“Thailand will be part of the Asean Economic Community [AEC], which comes into effect at the end of this year, with a combined 600-million population forming one big single market, representing 10 per cent of the world’s population.
“AEC transformation will allow Thailand to become a tourist-destination hub of the world, benefiting from the country’s advantages, such as its strong logistics network and geographic location, plus dynamic growth from emerging markets in the region,” she said.
However, the Kingdom’s current import duty charged for fashion and cosmetics brands is too high at between 30 per cent and 40 per cent, resulting in a loss of competitiveness compared with rival shopping destinations in the region, she stressed.
“I would like the government to revise [the tax structure] and reduce the import tariff for fashion brands to about 10 per cent, so that we can compete with rival countries and make Bangkok truly an ultimate shopping destination of the world,” said The Mall Group chief.
She added that Thailand was now facing a serious labour shortage, with an unemployment rate of just 0.03 per cent.
The government could resolve the labour-shortage problem in the retail sector by allowing migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to do jobs legally, especially in front-office work, such as sales representatives in stores, she suggested.
“Between 30 and 40 per cent of shoppers visiting modern retail malls in downtown Bangkok, such as Siam Paragon, are foreign tourists, and 50 per cent of them are Asian.
“In the retail sector, we [Thailand] play a leading role in the world in terms of innovation and creativity, as well as a sense of fashion. What we require by way of assistance from the government is in the area of political stability as well as tourism support, especially via a reduction in import duty,” she said. The country’s modern retail sector is, however, lagging behind other countries in regard to new technology development, such as e-commerce, she said.
“For The Mall Group, the sales contribution from e-commerce activity is not significant, at less than 1 per cent of our annual turnover at the moment. And we don’t think the contribution will be higher than 1 per cent of sales over the next five years,” said the chairwoman.
The group’s policy is to focus on developing mega-retail projects in Bangkok and other tourist destinations, including Hua Hin and Phuket.
“We want to make the country good enough in terms of retail development, before expanding to somewhere else. Thailand has still a tremendous opportunity for new retail developments and world-class attractions for foreign tourists,” Supaluck said.
By way of example, she cited Phuket’s potential to be promoted as a world-class resort island with the addition of key infrastructure, such as international convention, retail and entertainment complexes, and airline and cruise facilities.