The Mall changes with the times
A series of makeovers at existing branches is set to refresh the group’s image, writes Pitsinee Jitpleecheep
With technology changing consumer lifestyles and e-commerce disrupting the traditional retail business, The Mall Group, one of the country’s leading department store chains, is trying to keep the lights on with Achara Umpujh, the Umpujh family’s fifth daughter and senior executive vice-president of the group, volunteering to write a new chapter.
The company plans to spend 16-17 billion baht initially to make over all existing branches of The Mall shopping complexes in Bangkok, aiming for a new look to overtake an image that has been 35 years in the making.
“We are confident that the new look at existing The Mall branches will pave the way for a new chapter in Thailand’s retail landscape, as store design, shopping ambience, and product and service offerings shift from the old days to becoming more cool and chic,” Mrs Achara says.
Of the total 16-17 billion baht, 3.5 billion baht will be used for a facelift of The Mall Ngam Wong Wan in August this year, as the leasing contract agreement with tenants will end soon.
To freshen the image of the Ngam Wong Wan branch, Mrs Achara and her team have brainstormed ideas and talked with young people aged 20 and lower for inspiration.
At the same time, she has updated her travel destinations to find inspiration for differentiating trends.
“I prefer to go anywhere with not too many people, instead of crowded places, even going to the forest or the mountains to clear out all the information we absorb in our minds,” Mrs Achara says. “Resetting the mind for creating new things under The Mall’s new store model means each floor will have a clear character.”
The company expects to complete its renovation of The Mall Ngam Wong Wan within two years.
“Convenience will come first, along with store-sharing, because it is the primary need for people who embrace digital lifestyles,” Mrs Achara says.
Apart from the Ngam Wong Wan branch, the company will spend 6 billion baht to rebuild The Mall Ramkhamhaeng branch to become a new concept store.
The group is currently in the process of demolishing The Mall Ramkhamhaeng and expects to start building the new store next month, which will take about 2½ years to complete.
The shopping atmosphere at The Mall Ramkhamhaeng will be more relaxing, Mrs Achara says, letting customers enjoy the experience in an affordable fashion. The shop designs will introduce new styles, but without confusing long-time customers.
Mrs Achara says she envisions The Mall Ramkhamhaeng as a crossroads to revive shopping in the area.
“Ramkhamhaeng nowadays is the second Sukhumvit,” she says. “There are many condominium developments in the area, and the MRT station is in front of our buildings. The MRT will draw shoppers to our complex, but at the same time it could pull shoppers to other places if our complex doesn’t have anything to set it apart.”
After rebuilding the Ramkhamhaeng branch, the company hopes it will become the nucleus of a popular shopping district, as characterised by Siam Paragon, The Emporium and EmQuartier on Sukhumvit Road.
After The Mall Ramkhamhaeng, the remaining 10-11 billion baht will go towards a major facelift of The Mall branches in Tha Phra, Bang Khae and Bang Kapi.
“The facelift of the three branches will be done in parallel and is expected to be completed within the next five years,” Mrs Achara says.
While she handles the development of existing The Mall branches, her elder sister, Supaluck Umpujh, the group’s chairwoman, will look after the development of new retail projects.
Ms Supaluck will start to develop the EmSphere retail project near The Emporium shopping complex this year after two years of delay.
Mrs Achara joined The Mall in her twenties with a focus on merchandise.
“Fashion is not our outstanding selling point. Our branches are in the suburbs, so we focus on necessary goods and food first,” she says.
The supermarkets took over a decade to develop, as exemplified by the transfor- mation of Home Fresh Mart into Gourmet Market.
“With the international image of gourmet and the product variety of street food, we got a good response from customers and sales notably increased,” Mrs Achara says, adding that the company will focus on organic products this year to respond to increasing health concerns among the public.
After completing its remodel of existing stores, the company will update other business units such as Sports Mall, Power Mall and Be Trend to make them more modern, as well as fully embrace e-commerce in the future.
While the company is developing products to respond to changes in customer lifestyles, a new, young management team will be announced soon.
Fashion is not our outstanding selling point, so we focus on necessary goods and food first.
ACHARA UMPUJH Senior executive vice-president, The Mall Group
Mrs Achara says The Mall’s Gourmet Market will focus on organic products this year to respond to increasing health concerns among the public.