Health and beauty retailer Central Watson Co has announced plans for a 390-million-baht expansion of its specialty store chain in Thailand. Managing director Rod Routley said the money would be used to open new stores, upgrade a significant number of existing ones and build a modern new warehouse to serve its business growth.
The company will open 45-50 new Watsons stores this year, bringing the total to 345 in 60 provinces and creating 500 new jobs. The number of new Watsons outlets opening this year alone will be the same as those opened over the entire past three years, and this annual rate will continue over the next three years.
"The country’s economic situation may be weak, but we're very positive about our long-term growth prospects in Thailand," Mr Routley said. He said 70% of additional stores to be opened this year would be upcountry and the rest in Bangkok.
In the past couple of years, 60-65% of new outlets were located upcountry in a bid to to cash in on the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which is scheduled to kick off late next year. Mr Routley said the Watsons chain expects new business opportunities with the AEC's population of 603 million.
"Thailand has great potential as a major economic centre in the region, and Watsons remains positive about future growth opportunities in Thailand," he said. "Our future investment and store expansion plans will ensure Watsons is well placed to serve the changing tastes and aspirations of Thai consumers in many cities nationwide."
Besides the new stores, Central Watson will this year focus more on innovative products, adding 100 new Watsons-brand products and boosting the number of exclusive products from outside companies by 10-15%. The move is aimed at bolstering brand loyalty among customers, Mr Routley said. Watsons reported a strong performance last year, with double-digit sales growth despite the tough economy.
It gained a greater market share across all its core categories such as skin care, vitamins, cosmetics and food supplements.