Robinson raring to go in hygienic reopen

Robinson raring to go in hygienic reopen

Mr Wuttikiat says strict social distancing and hygiene measures will be adopted.
Mr Wuttikiat says strict social distancing and hygiene measures will be adopted.

Robinson, the SET-listed department store operator under Central Group, is ready to reopen its department store and is committing to various measures to ensure customer shopping confidence.

Wuttikiat Techamongklapiwat, the company's president, said they have worked with the Thai Chamber of Commerce to prepare hygiene and safety measures on par with international standards.

The company also trained staff to ensure proper distancing once shopping complexes are allowed to reopen on May 17 as expected.

Letters were sent to Robinson's tenants and suppliers to prepare them to provide their services from this date, he said.

Social distancing is set at five square metres per person. Robinson stores average 40,000 sq m in size.

The company can accommodate about 8,000 people per store, said Mr Wuttikiat. Management is not concerned about an influx because the stores have never received more than 5,000 shoppers per store at any one period in the past, he said.

"We will be strict, particularly in food areas," said Mr Wuttikiat. "The number of customers at tenants' stores will be limited to 20 at a time, depending on the store's space."

People will prefer to stay home in the beginning, even after stores reopen, he said.

The company believes consumers will gradually return because Thais are social.

"For instance, once we reopened our Nakhon Si Thammarat branch in early April, there were fewer customers the first week, but traffic improved in the second week and then returned to normal in the following weeks," Mr Wuttikiat said.

The economy relies heavily on tourism and exports, so it will take 6-8 months before the situation is back to normal, he said.

Mr Wuttikiat said while customers stay home, the company will work to reach them via social media such as Facebook, Line and e-commerce channels.

"Robinson started its online business four years ago, so we were less impacted than others when the crisis struck," he said.

The company's online sales grew by 3-4 times in April and that momentum continues, said Mr Wuttikiat. Hot items online are home products, kitchen appliances and cooking products.

"While the pandemic has affected the overall economy, our investment over the next 5-6 years remains on track. We have not revised our investment plan because the retail fundamentals did not change," he said.

Roughly 2-3 new branches will be opened every year for future growth, said Mr Wuttikiat. Each store requires an investment cost of 500-700 million baht.

"The pandemic may impact our sales, but it means an opportunity to create a new sales channel for customers," he said.

Sales totalled 28 billion baht last year.

Mr Wuttikiat would not provide a sales projection for this year.

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