Thailand: Hype builds as new Apple store imminent

Apple says it plans to launch its retail store at CentralWorld soon, marking the second official shop of the American tech giant in Thailand.

An industry source who requested anonymity says the company scheduled the launch for July 31.

Apple’s Thai website shows the company’s logo with colourful Thai letters inside, reading Krung Thep (Bangkok). The site says Apple CentralWorld is coming soon.

The planned unveiling of the new store highlights Apple’s confidence in the Thai market despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which is keeping foreign tourists at bay.

Apple’s website also mentions “the intersection of creation and inspiration”, which apparently refers to the Ratchaprasong intersection where Apple CentralWorld is located.

“You will be led to experience new possibilities that can spark desire for gaining knowledge and top up imagination,” the promotion says.

According to Apple, the store will enable participants to exchange knowledge, learn and engage in all of their interests with the aim of translating them into reality. “We will see you soon,” it says.

The first Apple store in Thailand is at Iconsiam, a mall on the Thon Buri side of the Chao Phraya River. It opened in November 2018.

A tech industry source familiar with Apple’s business said there has been a shortage of Apple products, such as iPads and MacBooks, in the local market since June, as demand for the products has surged while production has yet to fully resume.

Sales in the computer segment gathered steam in the second quarter because of work-from-home measures and online study during the pandemic.

Trisorn Volyarngosol, chief executive of SPVi Plc, an Apple authorised dealer, said the opening of the Apple store at CentralWorld is unlikely to have much impact on SPVi’s sales because the company has several branches in Bangkok. But he acknowledged SPVi’s branch at CentralPlaza Grand Rama 9 is at risk of losing visitor traffic to the new store at CentralWorld.

The education sector is still the key market for SPVi, from kindergarten to universities.

Anothai Wettayakorn, vice-president for Asian emerging markets at Dell EMC, another American tech firm, said the pandemic has boosted demand for computer notebooks among companies and individuals because many employees have to work from home and students need online instruction. It is difficult to forecast the situation in the second half amid the gloomy economy, he said.

Peerapat Samarnmit, an analyst at IDC Thailand, said the second-quarter computer market is expected to show double-digit year-on-year growth after the pandemic and social distancing led to work-from-home measures and online education. There was a shortage of computers in the first quarter because of supply disruptions, which raised demand in the next quarter.

“This is opposite from other businesses that bore the brunt from the lockdown and the pandemic,” Mr Peerapat said.

Strong demand for computers is expected to continue in the third quarter, tapering somewhat from the second quarter, he said, with economic uncertainty clouding the market.