The stars in the supermarket race

WHAT is your favorite supermarket here in Thailand? Aside from the booming of convenient stores like 7-Eleven, there are still a few supermarkets which are serving another segment of consumers both Thais and foreigners.

If any one of us is asked how many brands of supermarket are there in Thailand, one may think of Tesco Lotus, BigC or Tops. But if one is asked further which supermarkets are quite unique and have product differentiations compared to others, the answers certainly are not those three.

The names people think of are Foodland, Villa Market and MaxValu.

According to Longtunman, a popular Facebook page, Foodland was founded by Mr. Somsak Tirapatanakul, an overseas Chinese, who moved to live in Thailand.

He said after being an employee for 15 years, he decided to start up his own business by studying supermarket business in various countries and then developed his own plan to suit the taste and preferences  of the consumers in Thailand.

Foodland started its first small branch in a shop-house in 1972 in Bangkok and now has 20 branches, 16 in Bangkok and four in provinces.  The main strength or difference of Foodland is that it’s the first supermarket to have a food shop, book shop and pharmacy in its branch, which opens 24 hours.

Mr. Somsak said today he still worked hard, 18 hours a day, going to bed at midnight and waking up at five o’clock in the morning, doing some exercise and then starts working by traveling to branches to talk to his staff and clients to collect information, which would be used to improve Foodland service further.

Whereas Villa Market started its first branch in 1974 with a clear concept to become a niche market by differentiating itself from its competitors through offering the widest possible types of products by importing them from various parts of the world.

The popular items include all kinds of meats, fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese and organic products.  Villa now has 33 branches, 22 in Bangkok and 11 in upcountry.

Future plan for Foodland is to set up 4-5 branches a year with more emphasis on upcountry.  It also plans to separate the Food Shop zone to become a new company and will expand its restaurant business by acquiring franchises.

Villa Market will also expand 3-4 branches a year in Bangkok and key provinces but has no plan to expand into neighboring countries because it still sees potential upcountry.

Foodland earned 5,306 million baht in revenue and 117 million baht in profit in 2014, 5,487 million baht and 198 million baht in 2015, 5,774 million baht and 297 million baht in 2016.

Villa Market earned 5,140 million baht in revenue and 180 million baht in profit in 2014, 5,308 million baht and 211 million baht in 2015 and 5,450 million baht and 240 million baht in 2016.

MaxValu is a Japanese supermarket chain owned by Aeon (Thailand) which established its first branch in Bangkok in 2007 and now has 30 branches.

The company also has another brand, MaxValu express or Tanjai.  It plans to expand further next year by opening up five more branches (three MaxValu and two MaxValu Tanjai) in provinces where there are populations of more than one million.

All those three supermarkets are popular not only among Thais but also among foreigners living in Thailand.

While competition in the supermarket segment is fierce particularly by main rivals like BigC, Tesco Lotus, Tops and 7-Eleven, these three, especially Foodland and Villa, are trying their best to serve the upper income buyers with the best selection of their products and services.

They have survived the thick and thin during the ups and downs of the economy and stronger competition also from the on-line shopping which has rocked retail trade worldwide especially in the US where many famous malls were closed.

They hope with their strong intention to serve their clients, they will continue to survive.

Readers are welcome to share their shopping experiences at any supermarket in Thailand.


Top: Fresh tasty fruit for sale at a supermarket. Photo: Ricardo (CC-BY-2.0)

By Kowit Sanandang