Curfew hits businesses hard
Seven-hour shutdown takes financial toll
published : 23 May 2014 at 23:43
newspaper section: Business
Bangkok, the sleepless City of Angels that stays alive around the clock, is now only half-awake. Since the military staged a coup on Thursday and announced a 10pm-5am curfew, many businesses have suddenly been forced to adjust their business hours. And that has inevitably affected their operations and sales.
Patpong’s night market is among the popular after-dark shopping places that have been affected by the curfew. PATIPAT JANTHONG
Shopping malls, small IT vendors, restaurants and nightlife operators have suddenly felt the pinch, while mass transit and convenience stores have been resilient to the political drama.
Shopping malls see decline
Since Thursday, The Mall Group has closed all its department store branches at 8pm, two hours before its regular closing time. The department stores under the group include The Mall, The Emporium and Siam Paragon.
A source at The Mall Group said the department stores had suddenly seen a drop in sales by 10-20% per day worth 10-20 million baht. The key reason is that 9-10pm is normally the peak spending hour for customers at every shopping complex.
Restaurant operators, in particular, are expected to have lost half their sales since they might not be able to sell dinners as usual.
In the meantime, the source said, the group’s immediate plan is to control overall operation costs in order to limit the losses.
“I hope the coup makers will launch measures to help the tourism sector as soon as possible and boost foreign tourists’ confidence,” the source said.
Banyat Kamnoonwatana, assistant vice-president of CP All Plc, the operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores, said the company did not expect to see its sales affected much even though its service hours had been cut by seven hours.
The main reason is customers have adjusted their hours to visit stores to purchase their groceries, food and other stuff, he said.
“Normally, sales at 7-Eleven stores come mainly in the daytime, so overall sales are expected to offset the seven hours we have to close,” Mr Banyat said.
Wongsamat Sanpaychudayan, vice-president of Computer System Connection International, an IT retailer with 140 branches nationwide, said the company experienced a sudden 20-30% drop in customers after the curfew was imposed.
“I believe this is a temporary shock. If there's no violence and schools start to reopen, then consumers will come back,” he said.
The company has decided to freeze its plan to open new branches.
Yongyuth Chaichana, managing director of Thippatana Arcade Co, operator of Pantip Plaza, said the coup is affecting the number of tourist customers, who normally contribute 30% of its sales.
Food and restaurants
Many restaurants and pub operators have also begun to see a decline in sales.
Nok, the 35-year-old manager of La Fiesta, a restaurant in Bangkok's Patpong area, said sales had decreased by 60% amid the political unrest, as most customers were foreign tourists who felt insecure about visiting the eatery, which is near the former anti-government protest site.
The restaurant opens at 2pm but now has to close at 9pm due to the curfew. This is likely to further hurt its already declining sales, said Ms Nok.
Porn, a 22-year-old cashier at Le Bouchon Restaurant, said business there had been quiet since anti-government protesters relocated their protest site to Lumpini Park. Sales have dropped considerably, by half.
The restaurant has had to open at noon and close at 9pm following the curfew enactment, which will surely further damage sales.
She said the restaurant does not have any business contingency plan to lessen the impact of the coup.
Kaeg, 37, who works as a cashier at Cosmo Pub in Patpong, said the curfew has forced the pub to reschedule its closing time from 2am to 9.30pm. She acknowledged that there had been a drop in sales but declined to provide the figures.
The skytrain yesterday operated service until 9pm instead of midnight, with more trains added to serve the influx of commuters during rush hours.
“We'll assess the situation on a day-to-day basis, depending on whether the curfew hours are changed,” a spokesman said.
Anat Arbhabhirama, an adviser to the BTS Group Holdings board, estimated nearly 700,000 passengers used the skytrain on Thursday, when the coup and curfew were announced. The number was pretty close to normal weekday ridership of 670,000 even though service hours were cut by three hours.
During the Bangkok shutdown in January, ridership peaked at 900,000.
The skytrain reduced the interval between trains to three minutes on the Sukhumvit Line and four minutes on the Silom Line, with 30 and 16 trains on the services, respectively.
Since Thursday, the subway has shut down service at 9pm and opened at 6am. Ridership is similar to normal workdays at 250,000. Subway operator Bangkok Metro Plc said maximum capacity was used with 19 trains on services during peak hours from 4-8pm.
Florists keep working
Wholesale and retail florists at Pak Klong Talad, a major flower market, are still running their businesses during the curfew period.
Wacharee Aonsuchat, owner of Gif Pak Klong Talad, said many florists could not close their shops at 10pm, as most flowers were delivered to the market at night and regular customers placed their orders at the same time.
Normally, flowers are available from 6-7pm every day, and wholesale florists
will pack them in boxes ready to be delivered to upcountry customers. She said her shop normally opened at 8am and closed at 2am.
However, Ms Wacharee has had to decrease her orders by 50% and avoid stocking flowers, as the number of customers is expected to fall.
“I have not changed my working hours, as I did the same thing when I had to face the red-shirt protests in 2010 and the coup in 2006,” she said.
Thanakrit Mekmethinsurakool, owner of Pak Klong Talad wholesale shop, said shops have to operate as usual despite the number of customers being expected to decrease by more than half at night.
“Flowers are normally delivered to the market all day and night,” he said.
Flowers from abroad arrive from 9-11am, while 5-7pm is the delivery time for Thai flowers.
Flowers from the northern provinces come in at about 2am.