Buyers brave Thailand Mobile Expo

Buyers brave Thailand Mobile Expo

Visitors peruse booths at Thailand Mobile Expo 2020. The event began on Thursday at Bitec. 
Visitors peruse booths at Thailand Mobile Expo 2020. The event began on Thursday at Bitec. 

After a month of delays caused by the pandemic, Thailand Mobile Expo kicked off on Thursday with crowds lured by clearance sales and promotions to coax users to replace their old gadgets.

"This is the largest exhibition since the outbreak, in a 30% smaller space," said Opas Cherdpunt, managing director of M Vision, the organiser of Thailand Mobile Expo.

He estimated that the number of visitors could drop to 300,000 during the four-day trade show from 600,000-700,000 before the outbreak, due to social distancing measures.

The show is presenting numerous products on clearance that went unsold during the four months of lockdown.

During the lockdown, smartphones sales at dealers fell almost 90% as retail shops were closed. Sales are expected to rebound in the second half of this year, Mr Opas said.

The worst-case scenario is a 30% drop in sales at the show, from 2.7 billion baht usually, he said.

Thailand Mobile Expo is held three times a year. This year, the first event ran from Jan 30 to Feb 2. The second was earlier scheduled to take place June 4-7 but was deferred to this month due to the outbreak.

Given the prevailing economic sentiment, buyers are likely to continue to use their smartphones 18-24 months longer, Mr Opas said.

For the first time, the show is working with e-marketplace giants Lazada and Shopee to organise online events on those platforms with discounts. Customers can order products online and pick them up at the expo.

Offline events will continue to exist because customers still need physical experiences with mobile phones before purchasing them, Mr Opas said. They cannot totally be replaced by online channels, he said.

At this expo, phone makers and mobile operators cut costs to create brand awareness, including booth decorations, so they will spend more on promotions to court customers.

Narathip Wirunechatapant, chief executive of Jaymart Mobile, a mobile phone and IT gadget retailer, said the closure of the company's retail stores caused revenue to plunge by 80% in April.

But Jaymart gained revenue from direct sales through its subsidiary Singer with promotions, including a 15- to 18-month instalment plan for a smartphone worth 10,000 baht. The company's online sales surged seven times in May.

Singer and online channels are expected to generate 20% of the company's total revenue this year, compared with only a single-digit proportion last year, Mr Narathip said.

He said the company needs to reach out to customers beyond retail shops by leveraging other channels.

According to Mr Narathip, the crisis is taking a heavy toll on small phone vendors because they have limited liquidity. Up to 20% of them could be pushed out in the wake of the pandemic.

He said the local smartphone market is expected to see a single-digit drop, but not as drastic as the country's GDP, as smartphones are a top spending segment among Thais.

Pratthana Leelapanang, chief consumer business officer of mobile operator Advanced Info Service, said Thailand will see the shipment of 100,000-200,000 units of 5G-enabled smartphones this year.

There are 10 million smartphones in the country. At present, 5G-enabled smartphones sell for more than 28,000 baht per unit, but prices are expected to become mid-range by year-end.

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