The Thai Retailers' Association (TRA) has urged the government to impose urgent measures to stimulate spending by foreign tourists.
President Busaba Chirathivat said Thailand welcomed more than 22 million tourists last year but their spending on shopping remained low, probably half that of tourists in Malaysia and four times lower than that of visitors to Singapore.
"The government should allow tourists to do their tax refunds at the point of sale when they buy products to increase convenience," she said.
As well, the government should consider reducing import taxes for luxury products so that tourists will shop more, helping Thailand become a shopping paradise, Ms Busaba said.
The TRA suggested the government set up a neutral organisation similar to the Japan External Trade Organisation to support companies investing abroad.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be helped to prepare for the Asean Economic Community. If they are stronger, they will be able to supply products to the Asean market.
Ms Busaba expects the retail industry to grow by 10-12% this year. Positive factors are government policies such as the 400-billion-baht rice pledging scheme, the minimum wage hike to 300 baht and the fiscal budget of 2.4 trillion baht, which together will make up to 3.5 trillion baht flow into the economy.
On the other hand, Ms Busaba said retail growth faces threats from political conflict and the higher minimum wage increasing retailers' salary expenses.
The retail industry grew by 12% last year. Convenience stores and specialty stores had growth of 18%, followed by department stores and supermarkets at 12% and 10%, respectively.
Chatchai Tuongratanaphan, a TRA adviser, expects convenience stores to continue to have strong growth this year because of the entry of new entrepreneurs, while organic, health and beauty products will enjoy steady growth.
High-quality and expensive products are becoming popular among Thai consumers due to their increasing incomes.
Health and beauty businesses will constantly grow and small pharmaceutical businesses will become their allies.
However, the growth of fresh markets will decline and more will become flea markets to suit the change in consumer behaviour.
Construction material businesses will grow rapidly on the strong recovery of the property sector.
Mr Chatchai suggested SMEs focus more on niche markets. Multi-channel shopping from in-store shopping to online and mobile purchases should be developed. All data will be integrated and used for consumer analysis.
About the author
- Writer: Pitsinee Jitpleecheep
Position: Business Reporter