Long-awaited H&M store opens today

Siam Paragon gets first crack at Swedish brand

The Swedish clothing retail giant Hennes & Mauritz AB will open its long-awaited H&M outlet today in Bangkok, marking its first foray in this fashion-conscious city.

Par Darj (left), H&M’s country franchise manager, poses with JS Gill, chief executive of Hthai (Thailand) Co, the franchise operator of H&M in Thailand.

Covering 3,200 square metres in Siam Paragon shopping centre, the store is not far from its two arch-rival clothing brands from Spain - Zara and MNG.

The entrance of H&M is considered to be the last jigsaw piece for fast retailing fashion brands in Thailand, where all top brands have already made their debuts, said market observers.

These popular brands include Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, GAP, MNG and XXI Forever.

After the flagship store, the company will expand with a shop in The Mall Bang Kapi next month and a third in the pipeline at CentralWorld at the Ratchaprasong intersection.

H&M in Thailand is operated by Hthai (Thailand) Co, owned by JS Gill, a Singaporean businessman who is franchiser for H&M in Thailand and Indonesia.

Mr Gill operates about 300 shops offering sports, fashion and active lifestyle brands such as Billabong from Australia and Nautica from the US.

"We look forward to opening our store here, because Bangkok is a fashion-conscious city and we see great potential," Par Darj, the company's country's franchise manager, said during a visit to Bangkok yesterday.

The opening of H&M in Thailand is a part of its business plan to open 300 stores this fiscal year.

Asked about counterfeit fashion brands as well as smuggling, Mr Darj said he is optimistic about dealing with these problems.

"The large number of fashion brands here reflects the market potential for fashion," he said.

"Smuggling is not a big problem for us. At our stores, we offer fashion with quality at the best price. And customers will get the feeling and experience with our store ambience and have a wide variety of products to shop for."

To boost the frequency of store visits, the company will offer new products each week to retain existing customers and attract new customers.

H&M's prices range from 50 baht for some accessories to 10,000 baht for a leather jacket.

Bypassing middlemen and developing an efficient logistics system has enabled the brand to offer such competitive prices, said Mr Darj.

The entry of H&M has driven Zara, MNG and XXI Forever to renovate their stores and extend their retail lines.

Currently, H&M products come from 16 production outlets, and 80% of its clothing is manufactured in Asia including Thailand, with the rest made in Europe.

H&M has 2,600 outlets worldwide, and Thailand is the 47th country for the brand.

H&M has expanded its business to Asia over the past six years, operating now in China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, plus Malaysia as of last week.

Another H&M store will open in Jakarta at the beginning of next year, also in collaboration with franchiser JS Gill.

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Writer: Pitsinee Jitpleecheep
Position: Business Reporter