Image via WikipediaCentral Retail Corporation is expanding further in the book business by investing 200 million baht to open new branches of a foreign bookstore chain over the next year.
The move is expected to strengthen the company's market leadership in book retailing position and tap huge opportunities in the 2-billion-baht market for foreign books.
Central Page One (Thailand) Co has been set up as the joint venture between CRC, and Singapore-based Page One Holdings, Asia's leading book retailer and publisher, to operate Central Page One stores in Thailand.
The new venture will compete in a market currently dominated by the Asia Books and Kinokuniya chains.
Tos Chirathivat, the CEO of CRC, said the first Central Page One Corner was opened at the company's B2S bookstore on the seventh floor at Central Chidlom. Another 200-square-metre shop will open on the fifth floor of Zen Department Store this week and 11 more outlets will be added next year.
The target market for the chain will be white-collar workers, children, families and people fond of arts, fashion and architecture.
Mark Tan, CEO of Page One Holdings Pte, said the company invested in Thailand because it wanted to accelerate the growth of the foreign book business.
Central Page One stores are designed under a "hip & cool" concept, offering new experiences to readers. They carry titles in seven categories: children, humanities, literature and general fiction, lifestyle, professional, art and design. Each store will contain at least 25,000 books and shoppers can check the database for availability of other titles throughout the Page One network.
Page One was founded in 1983 in Singapore and also has branches in Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei.
Mr Tan said most imported books by European and US publishers were now available in Asia. "But customers cannot afford them because the Asian market is developing. Page One is the alternative. We sell books at affordable prices, about 30% cheaper than western offerings. Our long-term vision is to see every family own at least one book from Page One or one book published by us," he said.
The executives declined to make sales and business projection.
For the overall retail business, Mr Tos said CRC had seen a dramatic improvement in customer purchasing power from September to November. Sales of CRC in the first eight months of this year grew only 5-6% but improved to 10% growth from September to November. Profit in the first 11 months of this year is up by 5-6% year-on-year compared with a 10% contraction earlier in the year. "But we are not confident about how long [the economic recovery] will last," he said.
"On the international stage, Thailand's politics is in the spotlight, not the economy. If politics is stable, the retail market next year will be better than this year, and we will consider extra investment."