Thai retailers find new ways to sell amid coronavirus outbreak

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai retailers have resorted to a mix of alternative sales strategies like drive-throughs and calling up customers direct to generate business as malls and airports close during the coronavirus crisis. The country’s largest retailer, Central Retail Corporation Pcl (CRC) CRC.BK, was calling up previous customers, chief executive Yol Phokasub told reporters in…

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai retailers have resorted to a mix of alternative sales strategies like drive-throughs and calling up customers direct to generate business as malls and airports close during the coronavirus crisis.

The country’s largest retailer, Central Retail Corporation Pcl (CRC) CRC.BK, was calling up previous customers, chief executive Yol Phokasub told reporters in a conference call on Thursday.

“Customers are mostly at home so there is more time to talk,” Yol said. Store managers had been successful in selling cosmetics and building materials, supplementing the boom in online traffic.

Other methods included drive-throughs where customers made orders online and drove to a nearby mall to pick up their goods, which worked well with groceries, he said.

The company was able to recover 30% of sales after 90% of stores in its non-food segment were ordered to close, he said, and the company expects to report a “single-digit loss” in the first quarter.

The majority of its 200 supermarkets remain open.

Malls, except for supermarkets and restaurants for delivery, have been closed in Bangkok and the government has imposed a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

In the fourth quarter last year, Central Retail’s non-food sector, which includes fashion, electronics and construction materials, contributed 32.8 billion baht ($1.01 billion) in revenue, or 62% of total sales.

Unlisted duty-free retailer King Power Group, which closed all of its airport and downtown stores, launched a campaign this week asking all employees to sell its non-duty free products.

Staff later posted promotions and advertised products on Facebook.

“I want to see stars in departments that do not sell things, that are not connected to sales, to come and do sales,” chief executive Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha said in an internal video to employees seen by Reuters.

Thailand stands to lose 1.3 trillion baht, nearly all of it in the tourism sector, from the coronavirus, which has infected than 2 million people globally and killed 136,667, according to a Reuters tally.

Thailand has confirmed a total of 2,672 cases and 46 deaths.

Additional reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; editing by Nick Macfie

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