Myanmar's ABC wants partners for basics

Myanmar's ABC wants partners for basics

ABC Group, operator of ABC convenience stores in Myanmar, is looking for foreign partners to help it expand.

A deal with foreign partners would help the company branch into other retail formats such as hypermarkets and supermarkets, said Wai Thit Lwin, managing director of the ABC chain.

Myanmar's retail sector is rife with opportunities for foreign investors.

Regulations governing product distribution are likely to be completely revised and take effect by early next year, allowing foreigners to invest in the hypermarket and supermarket segments.

Under the revised rules, foreign investors could hold up to a 49% stake in a joint venture with local investors.

"Myanmar's retail business is in the beginning stage. Therefore, it has huge potential to grow," Wai Thit Lwin said.

"Modern trade contributes only 10% of total retail sales currently and is expected to rise to 25% by 2020."

She said the company was open to foreign investors from Asean, particularly Thai firms.

Myanmar and Thailand have a similar culture and a long history together, Wai Thit Lwin said.

"Thailand is my second home," she said.

"I come here twice a month for both shopping and looking at market opportunities in the Thai retail business."

If ABC Group can find the right partners, it plans to expand into hypermarkets or supermarkets or even develop a large-scale shopping complex in the next few years.

The company was founded eight years ago and runs 100 ABC convenience stores in Yangon and Mandalay.

Apart from seeking foreign partners, the company will expand within Myanmar on a franchise basis for the first time.

The scheme is expected to help speed up business growth.

ABC plans to increase the number of convenience stores to 1,000 in the next five years.

Retail experts view Myanmar as one of the more attractive countries for foreign retailers.

Young people make up 70% of the population.

At the same time, city dwellers are familiar with regional brands due to the large Myanmar workforce in nearby countries.

Myanmar consumers are quality-conscious and have an average monthly income of US$157 in the cities, a figure that s expected to triple by 2030.

Myanmar Marketing Research and Development Co said retail outlets in Myanmar numbered 231,000 in 2013.

Of those, 45% were grocery shops, convenience stores, pharmacies and fashion shops.

Some 99% of consumers in Myanmar shop at wet markets, 56% at grocery shops, 30% at convenience stores, 17% at supermarkets and 15% at minimarts.

Myanmar has a population of 51 million but only a limited selection of international retail brands.

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