Tag Archives: shopping

Central Plaza – A work in progress

Central Plaza – A work in progress By Steve Graham

If you are like me and have spent a considerable amount of time in Udon Thani, you will remember the swimming pools and water slides that used to be on the roof of Robinsons about 10 years ago. This facility was great at the time as my kids were really young and I could let them cause havoc all day while I drank the odd Singha and slept the day away. For some reason it closed at the same time as my kids grew up, inevitable change I suppose.

Central Plaza Udon Thani

New Look Central Plaza Udon Thani

Now that Robinsons has been reborn as Central Plaza, major building work is underway to make this shopping mall the biggest in the Isaan region. An estimated investment of 5 billion baht is being spent in time for the influx of foreign tourists and shoppers expected as the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) opens its borders to free trade in 2015. In fact the complex is due to be finished in March 2012 which is pretty quick considering work started on the expansion back in September 2010.

To get the latest information and the up to date new design of the building, I thought I would speak to Khun Tanin Pakdeepinyo, who is the Shopping Center General Manager of our soon to be finished Central Plaza in Udon Thani.

He started by explaining that there are approximately 1000 labourers working on the site at the moment, which obviously helps the local employment situation and that the area when finished will be 30,000 square meters, making it bigger than the Central Plaza at Khon Kaen (my students please take note). The Khon Kaen Central Plaza caters for middle Isaan customers, so Khun Tanin explained the four factors which contribute to the Udon Thani customer base.

Tanin Pakdeepinyo Central Plaza GM

Steve Graham from UdonMap.com interviews Khun Tanin Pakdeepinyo Central Plaza GM

First, the Thai people living in Udon Thani, the staple customers that will always be there rain or shine. Then, there are the customers from Laos who believe in the Central Plaza brand name and travel across the friendship bridge to fill up their cars before returning home. Next, there is the expatriate community that live in Udon Thani. Khun Tanin believes that there are about 10,000 foreigners living in Udon Thani and that their individual disposable income is considerably more than the local population if you believe the research that states that the average wage in Udon Thani is about 48,000 baht a year. Finally, there are the Thai labourers who work overseas and send back approximately 2 billion baht a month to families in Udon Thani (figures verified by the banking community I am informed).

In addition to these four factors, Khun Tanin explained that there are nearly 100,000 Chinese living in Laos and they are also a recognised customer base. Add to this the visitors from Vietnam and you have a large consumer platform to base future strategy.

I asked how the shopkeepers feel about all the turmoil that is taking place during the expansion and renovation that is taking place and it was explained to me that the retailers as well as the customers are happy because they know what to expect in March 2012, once the grand opening has taken place and everything gets back to normal.

For example, parking during the building work is a bit of a nightmare and I am certainly looking forward to being able to park at Central Plaza on a Saturday afternoon without the cross country obstacle course I have to sometimes endure. What looks like a new car park is well underway and looks to make life a lot easier on that front.

I was interested in what Khun Tanin had planned for the foreigners living in Udon Thani and how he saw Central Plaza catering for their needs. I was informed that the majority of foreigners are with their families, so the strategy is to make the experience a family one. I happen to agree with this idea as there is nothing worse that having the wife and kids moaning at you as you spend your Saturday afternoon doing the shopping.

Most companies have a system in place for corporate responsibility and Central Plaza is no different. Donations to various projects are reviewed on an individual basis and include contributions to local temples, assistance to those affected by flooding in Udon Thani, learning and teaching materials for local schools and also support for the aged. I believe that the old age pension in Thailand, if you qualify, is only 500 baht a month, so some kind of assistance to old peoples’ homes is a very worthy cause.

Central Plaza Udon Thani

Central Plaza construction January 2012

One question I had to ask was about the road that used to run in front of the main entrance of Central Plaza before the building work began. Where did it go? It now seems part of the main building. Khun Tanin was able to answer this by explaining that the road was a private road and so could be built on as part of the project. I had done some research on this matter and was advised by a secret source that if you look at the older maps of Udon Thani, you will not see that road marked on the map. The road was added later on private land.

Competition from other countries and companies is welcomed by Khun Tanin as the 2015 deadline for the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement approaches. Central Plaza has conducted research and believes that they can trust their staff, that they have belief in their brand name and that the systems that they have in place will progress according to plan. Khun Tanin told me that he welcomes the opportunity and was ready for it.

Future plans for other projects were also discussed, albeit some areas were not, as they are still classified as secret. However, with stores destined for Italy and China, it doesn’t take the brains of an Archbishop to work out that there is plenty of scope within the boundaries of the ASEAN context for further expansion.

So, there you have it. A work in progress and not yet like the finished product; however, work has been completed very quickly and it looks as if the inhabitants of Udon Thani will be once again spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping at Central Plaza. Now where did I leave my car?

Chern Chim Foods Relocates

Chern Chim Foods Udon Thani

Jon & Dao - Owners of Chern Chim Foods

Chern Chim has been a successful part of Udon’s ex-pat food culture for the last two and a half years, supplying imported brand name products, frozen/fresh meats, bacon, ready meals, fresh bread, a popular sausage range and much more.

Due to its increasing popularity, CC is currently undergoing major changes and expansion plans and is moving from their Adunyadet Road business unit into larger purpose-built premises overlooking the scenic Nong Sim Lake and park.

The Adunyadet Road shop will close its doors for the final time on October 28th at 6pm. The new premises will open to wholesale & local business customers on 1st Nov. The official grand opening for general customers is currently subject to the construction deadline and will be announced later on the udonmap forum. The target date however is 10th November.

The new CC premises will host a larger ground floor area, warehousing space for palletized products and forklift truck access as well as ample customer parking space. There is even a spacious apartment available for private rental.

The core of the business will remain the same with some unique additions to the deli-café  menu, imported brand names and a freezer section.

The expansion and development plans will see some new additions to the business such as:

1. Off-license (liquor shop) selling wholesale imported alcohol, and a tasting center selling drinks to enjoy on the terrace or to take-away wholesale in 4’s 12’s, and whole cases of the usual (plus some unusual) imported beers, ciders, wines and party drinks like WKD and others from Europe, Australia, and other countries.

2. An imported alcohol hotel mini-bar supply department servicing the provincial hotels, guesthouses, and resorts.

3. A unique addition to the business will be Udon’s first working classic ‘old’ style shop with traditional 60′s/70′s theme similar to that of the UK TV sitcom “Open All Hours”. The annex will be named ‘Arkwrights’ and staff will wear traditional brown coats and use a delivery bike complete with basket. Photos ops will be available next to ‘Arkwright n GGGGgranville’ – a truly unique shopping experience.

Jon & Dao, the owners of Chern Chim, say the business has really taken over their lives in the last 2 years, but they love it. In their opinion Tesco, Big C, Makro, and similar superstores all have a place in the market; and they see this as investing in Udon Thani, whilst keeping alive the tradition of the corner shop; in turn having fun, being happy doing it and obviously making enough to take care of their family and maintaining the odd hobby.

Jon & Dao said they would like to thank all customers past and present who have in any way supported the business during the last two and a half years.  Without them, none of this dream would have been possible.

Downtown Plaza Udon Thani

If you are looking for a shopping centre in the middle of Udon Thani that has excellent parking facilities in these times of traffic jams and queues, then give Downtown Plaza a try.

Downtown Plaza Udon Thani

Downtown Plaza Udon Thani

It sort of sprung up after a while, so I thought I would go and take a look.  When you drive into the car park, the first thing I noticed was that there were in fact places where I could park. Trying to park in Big C at the wrong time of the month leaves me parking in the most obscure places after about 15 minutes of kerb-crawling. The police back in England would have a field-day!

I have been several times; however, today was the day that the first floor was officially opened and there was a fashion show to celebrate this event. Loud music followed an array of super models down a catwalk that had been made in the central walkway area.

What I did find noticeable was the fact that the clothes these models were wearing could be worn by the general public. Normally on television, when there is a fashion show reported on the news, the models sometimes wear the most stupid looking clothes that any sane member of the public would run a million miles away from.

Downtown Plaza Udon Thani

Before and after shots. The picture above shows the first floor after completion before the units had been made available to the general public. Below is how it looks now with occupied units and the fashion show in full swing.

All the action was taking place on the first floor which has been allocated as the fashion floor. A reliable source told me that the going rate is 3,900 baht a unit per month, which is not expensive at all; however, I do not know the ins and outs of the contract.

The ground floor is the Food Court where you can buy the normal tasty morsels that you would expect when you are shopping in this kind of place. This time I visited, it was considerably quieter than what was going on upstairs and it gave me a chance to recuperate before going back for another dose of fashion.

On the same floor, there are also small shops which sell clothes and accessories that would go with the fashion items that you have already purchase on the fashion floor. All of these units seemed to be occupied by small businesses, which meant that the items for sale were quite varied compared to some of the dross that seems to make its way to our high streets.

Those of you who have seen me staggering around Udon Thani of a weekend would testify that I am not the most fashion conscious of people, and I would agree with you. I am of the opinion that fashion fades and style remains.

Time will tell whether Downtown Plaza turns out to be a success, but I do believe that this place has a certain style, so who knows, I could well be a frequent visitor emptying my wallet to cater to the whims of my wife and daughter. What a terrible thought!