The Thai subsidiary of Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart has been pushing ahead with aggressive expansion plans since Central Retail purchased more than 50 per cent of the business last year.
Central FamilyMart has already broken the 1,000-store mark (with more than 1,100 outlets now operating), and it wants to triple these convenience store numbers to over 3,000 by 2017.
The convenience store sector, Thailand’s fastest growing retail segment, is highly specialised, and the joint venture aims to capitalise on the combination of FamilyMart’s expertise in the sector and Central’s knowledge of the local market in Thailand.
Developing its ready-to-eat food offering is key to driving sales for FamilyMart, and Tops/Central Food’s produce buying team is supporting the development of convenience lines of fresh fruit in the FamilyMart stores.
“It’s quite new for a convenience chain like FamilyMart to stock fresh fruits, so we are supporting them by handling the sourcing and recommending what items to range, how to package them and so on,” Supavadee Nimmanakait, head of produce imports at Tops/Central Food told Asiafruit.
FamilyMart has begun by ranging certain fruits individually, including single bananas, single apples and single kiwifruit. “Bananas in particular have been very successful,” says Nimmanakait, “and we plan to add items that are more sensitive to handle, such as grapes, in the future.”
One of the key challenges to increasing FamilyMart’s fresh fruit range is expanding the cold chain, she noted. “If they can overcome this issue, then we will add more items.”
Nimmanakait sees good potential to sell more produce through such convenience channels in Thailand. “FamilyMart has got stores in prime locations around Bangkok, and in tourist locations, which attract the type of shoppers who are more likely to buy these convenience fresh produce lines,” she added.