Is shopping all the same these days in Southeast Asia? Glitzy malls spread all across Asian metropolis bringing generally the same batch of brands, restaurants, coffee shops to consumers. However, retail specialist Siam Piwat – which stands behind major malls in Bangkok such as Paradise Park, Siam Center or Siam Paragon- looks to redefine totally the shopping spree experience. The company made already a first step in an experience-driven approach to shopping with Siam Center in 2013. Bangkok oldest mall -it was opened in 1973- has been turned at that time into a mix of food outlets, young Thai design shops and more popular brands, all of them blending innovative interior design and arts. The tagline “Ideopolis”was then added to Siam Center with many events in fashion and design turning it into one of the most attractive malls for visitors.
And now comes the renovated Siam Discovery. The mall -adjacent to Siam Center- will reopen to the public after being closed for almost a year. Like Siam Center, Siam Discovery concept has been totally reshaped with a new minimalist open-space design which requested a total investment of US$115 million (THB4 billion) “Shopping was all about orientating clients to brands, brands, brands. We decided to take a totally opposite approach by making the mall “customer-centric”. Visiting a mall must first be an experience and shopping is only an eventual element of it!”, said Mr. Charnchai Cherdchuwongthanakorn, Senior Executive Vice President- Retail Business Development, Siam Piwat Co. Ltd.
Described as the “Exploratorium”, Siam Discovery is due to become “the Biggest Arena of Lifestyle Experience”. “We are talking these days about communities of customers rather than just see them shopping. We want to be seen as friends. You come to Siam Discovery, share your ideas, your wishes with staff or other customers. This can happen by strolling into our dedicated spaces or over a cup of coffee. Our aim is to say “Come and play with us”. This is why we talk about the “Exploratorium” as the mall will highlight the own identity of each customer”, added Mr Chedrchuwongthanakorn.
The mall has been redesigned by Japanese Oki Santo, head of Nendo, a well recognized designer. The concept are open spaces ruled after experience, each floor beeing themed. The ground floor is called “Her Lab” dedicated to female clients while the Mezzanine floor will be the male shopper’s pendant to the ground floor. Other floors will be called “Digital Lab”, “Creative Lab” and “Play Lab”. Some 5,000 local and international brands will be available however all mixed and in any price range.
“We work on this principle of community’s interest rather than social categories. And this is also the way shopping is going these days where customers purchase according to their taste and needs rather than being driven by brands? It is all about lifestyle”, described Mr. Chaiyong Ratana-Angkura, Senior Consultant Siam Piwat Co. Ltd. As an example, Siam Discovery will target niche groups such as motorcycle circles, music communities or coffee afficionado.
A space called “Discovery Hubba” will be a dedicated space for management innovation where people will be able to share ideas and dreams of starting a business. It should involve into a laboratory of ideas for young entrepreneurs and artists.
To boost the appeal, the mall will have some first brand launching. Nike will have its only and solely Concept Store in Southeast Asia, “The World of Issey Miyake” will be the first one outside Japan while US famed music entertainment magazine Billboard will have its first ever Café. Many other brands will open for the first time in Thailand as well.
The mall will be a unique experience not only for Thailand but also for Southeast Asia. The budget to promote the new mall is consequent: US$8.5 million (THB300 million) with an iconic “Discovery Man” strolling around Bangkok. “We expect to see some 100,000 visitors per day with 35% being foreigners. On average 30% of our visitors come outside Thailand. We will provide information in five different languages to better assist tourists”, added Ms. Chanisa Kaewruen, Senior Deputy Managing Director Marketing Promotion.
Could Siam Discovery cannibalize surrounding malls? “I do not think so as each of our malls has a different positioning. Siam Paragon targets high luxury brands and families in a more traditional mall environment: Siam Center is all about design and innovative thinking giving a large space to young designers; Siam Discovery positions in-between and is really customer-centered. We do not see any cannibalization. Just in contrary, it helps positioning the area as Bangkok life-style central district”, described Mrs Mayuree Chaipromprasith, Senior Executive Vice President-Business Promotion.
There is no doubt that Siam Discovery will be a success story. But not only for the mall. It will also boost Bangkok’s position as a sophisticated shopping metropolis in Southeast Asia and reinforce the Rachaprasong area as the fashion, design, arts and shopping hub of the Thai capital. Grand opening on May 28!