Central Group banking on online boost with JD.com

After forming an e-commerce partnership with China’s JD.com, Thai retail giant Central Group expects online sales to account for as much as 15 per cent of its revenue in five years’ time, from 2 per cent now.

CEO Tos Chirathivat says the $500 million JV, announced in September, will help it compete in Southeast Asia’s booming e-commerce market and also open up businesses opportunities in China.

Tos estimates online retail in Thailand could rise fivefold to 10 per cent of the market as web access spreads via smartphones.  

While Central Group is a privately held investment arm of the Chirathivat family, it controls a range of publicly traded businesses – Central Pattana is a mall developer, Central Plaza Hotel runs resorts and restaurants, Robinson is a chain of department stores and COL is an office supplies company. Central Pattana turnover surged 50 per cent last year, Central Plaza 47 per cent and COL more than doubled.

Outside of Thailand, Central Group owns Italian luxury department store La Rinascente, Danish retailer Illum and the Big C hypermarket chain in Vietnam, along with interested in retail chains including Nguyen Kim (Vietnam) and B2S (Thailand).

Central Group is targeting annual revenue growth of 13 per cent this year, says Tos. Local sentiment is helping the company, with consumer spending in Thailand picking up after the October cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej ended the nation’s year-long mourning period.

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