Retail in Asia


The fate of Thailand’s luxury market


Following a decade of declining health, 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s then-longest-reigning monarch, passed away in Bangkok on October 13. The king’s untimely death concluded a reign that lasted more than seven decades and initiated a year-long period of mourning, bearing substantial consequences for the nation’s luxury and fashion sectors.

“I think [the fashion and luxury sectors] are definitely going to suffer — there will be a drastic decline in consumers of fashion brands,” – Kullawit ‘Ford’ Laosuksri, editor-in-chief of Vogue Thailand

“For example, I have spoken to a distributor of Kate Spade and Valentino, and they said that they had to re-estimate their Spring/Summer orders … The tourist and retail sectors are going to see a decline in sales — that is something the whole nation is afraid of.”

Thailand’s luxury market

In recent years, the Thai luxury market has shown tremendous promise, growing 8 percent year-on-year from 2015 to 2016, reaching a total value of nearly $1.6 billion, according to Euromonitor. This can partly be attributed in part to the country’s young, wealthy upper-middle class.

SEE ALSO: The key factor driving Thailand’s e-commerce boom

According to Digital Luxury Group, a business intelligence firm headquartered in Geneva, 20.5 percent of consumers who earned $150,000 or more in 2014 fell into the 30-34 age bracket, while another 18.6 percent fell into the 35-39 bracket, giving luxury brands and retailers ample space to penetrate the Thai market.

The role of tourism

Nevertheless, despite this wealthy domestic consumer base, tourism still plays a significant role in sales of luxury goods. According to Bain & Company’s 2015 Global Luxury Goods Report, “Thailand [is a] top performer [in the Southeast Asia market] thanks to Chinese flows with strong potential going forward.”

Just two days before the death of the king, Thailand’s biggest retailer, Central Group, announced expectations of a 21 percent rise in revenue to 320 billion baht ($9.17 billion) for fiscal 2016; sales at Central stores to foreigners rose 15 percent while transactions with domestic consumers merely increased by 5 percent.

Given the immediate decline in the domestic demand for luxury goods, the Thai government must now tighten their dependence on the tourism sector to offset regressions, as retailers scramble to compensate losses in sales.