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Siam Center: The Ideapolis Changing Thailand’s Mall Scene

Stephanie Smith

Touted as “the biggest collaboration ever undertaken by retailers and brand owners in Thailand,” the new Siam Center is already delivering on developer guarantees that it will be an innovative platform for new ideas and trends. Moreover, the impact of the Siam Center’s success echoes far beyond merely acting as an incubator for Thai designer talent or boosting Thailand’s expanding luxury market. The collaboration is the product of a revolutionary new conceptual retail model dubbed by Siam Piwat Company Ltd. CEO Chadatip Chutrakul as “Absolute Siam DNA”.

The project’s unique structure began as a rejection of traditional mall models. Investors have even eschewed the term “shopping center,” instead referring to Siam as an “ideapolis” where fashion, art, technology and entertainment converge. Beyond championing a more collaborative retail environment, Siam has also succeeded in creating a uniform shopping experience while still cultivating a pleasant sense of exclusivity, which encompasses everything from the retail to restaurant franchises within the center. Brand owners and retailers worked hand-in-hand with site developers and agreed to design their stores to reflect an overall theme that embodied the Siam experience. Retailers further agreed to make up to 20% of their collections available through Siam Center—even offering personalized services that are unavailable at any other shopping center in Asia. Similarly, endeavoring restaurateurs were encouraged to offer specialty menus exclusively through Siam.

Such exclusionary measures have also served to give the sprawling “ideapolis” a necessary edge against its primary competitor, family-owned conglomerate Central Group whose subsidiary Central Pattana is currently the single largest developer of shopping centers in Thailand. In 2011, Central Group saw a spike in investor interest after acquiring the iconic upscale department store chain La Rinascente from Italian real estate group Prelios for just over $290 million. The acquisition marked Central Group’s active move toward expanding into the overseas market. Siam Center’s subsequent creation is in many ways the Siam Piwat Group’s bid to remain a strong competitor in the race to gain a solid foothold in the global market.

When asked about the inspiration behind such an enormous—and in many ways risky—project, CEO Chadatip Chutrakul cited New York’s SoHo neighborhood, where she frequently observed “a timeless and invigorating mix of art, fashion and technology presented in a way that matches the unique character of the district.” Chutrakul felt that stores in SoHo found the formula for adapting themselves to fit the aesthetics of their environment while still preserving and indeed celebrating individual brand culture. The collaborative spirit of Siam Center in many ways reflects this inspiration, albeit on a much larger scale.

The project also reflects Thailand’s massive economic growth and viable place in the global market. In recent years, there has been much talk of transforming Bangkok into a fashion city comparable to New York, London or Hong Kong, making this massive project a credible manifestation of the city actively moving toward this goal. Total investments in the ambitious collaboration skyrocketed well past the $60 million mark and more than 200 retailers currently call the Siam Center home. For now, it seems investors can rest easy as their money appears to be well spent.

There is one comment on Siam Center: The Ideapolis Changing Thailand’s Mall Scene:

  1. When visiting Thailand’s creative centres you can feel that something big is about to happen in terms of economic growth and creative output. Look forward to Thailand being a new fashion destination!

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