UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was right after all. Competition does lead to better variety and value for money for the consumer. Or at least this is the case for supermarket shopping on the Thai island of Koh Phangan, where the opening of retail giant Makro’s first store on the 26th February 2013 has seen the existing supermarkets expand to meet the new competition.
Shopping always used to be difficult in Koh Phangan. The variety of products was low and the price of imported products was high. Shoppers either used the markets or Big A Supermarket. This all changed in July 2008 with the opening of Tesco Lotus on Koh Phangan. Whilst Tesco Lotus was fairly small, without the wide range of products in mainland branches, it represented the start of a new era of low-cost, high quality, convenient shopping. When Tesco Lotus opened everyone on the Island went there to shop. Initially because it was a novelty, but they kept on coming back because of the range of products, the convenience and most of all the price. Tesco Lotus broke the long standing monopoly of the Island’s then only supermarket and prices fixed high by unspoken collusion among the Island’s small traders.
Location of Tesco Lotus
Koh Phangan had to wait nearly a further 5 years, until June 2013 with the opening of Big C Market, before it saw a further big leap forward in food shopping opportunities. Big C is one of the major Thai supermarket brands and they are known for having a good product range. Big C is also known for having retail outlets in the foyer and from the outset had a small range of shops including Bata Shoes and Time World watch shop. Big C Market has perhaps the best range of imported foreign products on Koh Phangan, particularly French products by the Casino brand and confectionery. Big C Market also sells household goods such as kettles and small cooking devices like hotpots and rice cookers at affordable prices. This supermarket is people renting houses on Koh Phangan.
Location of Big C Market
Makro is the newest addition to Koh Phangan’s shopping scene and it has made a big impact on the Island. They stock a wide range of chilled, frozen and fresh foods at very competitive prices. Discount cards are available to commercial customers and private individuals making small purchases are also available. The range of bakery products is very good at Makro and the competition has killed off most of the smaller bakery businesses in the Thong Sala and Baantai Road area. The range of cheeses, hams, and imported goods is also good, but the star products are the frozen meats, the vegetables and fruit and the frozen pre-prepared products like french fries, sausages and even Indian curry. Most of the Island’s restaurant now buy their ingredients at Makro for Western style dishes.
Location of Makro
Makro has made the other supermarkets try harder
Tesco Lotus has added about 30% more shopping aisles and is aggressively discounting. Their supermarket product line hasn’t really changed though. The big innovation is the opening of a KFC outlet. This will be the island’s first big brand fast food restaurant. It is likely to be very popular with both Thais and tourists.
Big C’s approach has been slightly different. They haven’t expanded the number of aisles, product range or undertaken any discounting. What they have done is to increase the number of retail outlets. They have a Dunkin Donut outlet, a new coffee shop, and a small food hall.
With three major branded supermarkets on the island the choice for the consumer is likely to continue to improve driven by competition. The range and quality of food in the restaurants on the island is also likely to continue improving. Local restaurants will have to compete with established branded restaurants and there will be a better supply chain of products to Koh Phangan.
This is great news for restaurants, for people self-catering and for tourists to Koh Phangan. We hate to give any credence to what Maggie Thatcher said but she was right in this case – the more supermarkets on Koh Phangan the better it is for the consumer.
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