Most Thais did not grow up with do-it-yourself (DIY) furniture. But the coming of Ikea, the Swedish furniture chain, to Bangkok in early November could create some lifestyle changes among consumers.
Ikea aims to be as successful in Thailand as in the other 38 countries where it has a presence. And while the company looks forward to the Nov 3 opening of its first store, covering 43,000 square metres in Bang Na, local rivals are bracing to safeguard their market share.
For instance, SB Furniture Group has already opened a store, SB Design Square at Bang Na-Trat Km 4, not far from Ikea, proclaiming it to be a furniture hub for people in nearby areas.
But Lars Svensson, the project marketing manager for Ikea Thailand, is confident that Thais will accept the brand within two or three years.
“Thai people are more open, and many of them have travelled abroad or learned from friends about Ikea furniture,” he said. “If they have a chance to buy Ikea products here, with good design and low prices, I think they will.”
While the Ikea brand is unquestionably strong, having a single Bangkok store could limit its reach to the Thai masses.
Not a problem, said Mr Svensson. Ikano (Thailand), the store’s operator, wants customers to learn about the DIY concept first.
All of the products at the Bang Na store, initially expected to cover 7,500 items, will be supplied by the Ikea distribution centre in Shanghai.
Ikea furnishings are famous for simplicity, design, high quality and affordable prices for the masses. As a result, they cannot escape counterfeiting problems, especially in emerging markets.
Mr Svensson acknowledged that some Thais, who did not know Ikea before, might misunderstand that it has copied Thai products, since they have seen look-alike furniture in local shops.
Asked how the issue would be handled in Thailand, he said companies that copy Ikea products always make minor changes, skirting intellectual property laws.
On the other hand, Ikea is difficult to copy because the Swedish company offers a wide range of products in large volume at low prices. Thus the copies are never significantly cheaper than the originals. said Mr Svensson.
“We are developing and advancing our designs all the time. So they will find it difficult to keep up with Ikea.”
Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, a designer at Tao Hong Tai ceramic works, is optimistic that evolving tastes will spell doom for counterfeiting.
“This problem will gradually fade as Thai consumers place more importance on brand value,” he said.
“At present, some customers are not as serious about the genuineness of a product but prefer only similar items in the same colour and look-alike designs.”
Quality is hard to copy, and Ikea has paid attention to this, says Mr Svensson. Before each product is put on the market, it undergoes testing from the standpoint of design, material selection, safety and ease of flat-pack transport.
The Ikea Test Lab in Almhult performs 6,500 tests per year to meet standards for all major markets.
Source: Bangkok Post