Retail therapy - Issue 172 - Magazine | Monocle

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Gourmet Market’s flagship in Bangkok is a giant food emporium found inside the city’s premier shopping mall, Siam Paragon. Every morning, staff form a line at the end of each aisle to greet the first customers of the day with a cheerful sawadee. This sizeable welcoming party makes food shopping feel like a royal visit. A repeat performance after lunch involves dancing to music.

“An exceptional customer experience is crucial to food retail because there are so many options,” says Ploychompu Umpujh, who heads up Gourmet Market’s 17 branches and the rest of the food department at The Mall Group, one of Bangkok’s leading mall operators. “We have to consistently improve and think beyond what the customer wants.”

Supermarket shopping might have been boiled down to an exact science in many parts of the world but in Thailand the pie charts and schematics come with five-star service and lashings of entertainment. At Gourmet Market, a handful of floor staff are trained to guide customers through fresh produce and groceries, giving ordinary items the star treatment usually associated with fine wine and premium cuts of meat. Then there’s the “you hunt, we cook” scheme, with chefs on hand to whip up a recipe for customers using ingredients sourced from the supermarket.

“Food appreciation is in our dna,” says Umpujh, before rattling through a shopping list of supporting reasons. These include Thailand’s diverse cuisine and cooking styles, a service mindset, the dominance of agricultural exports and the central role of food in daily life. “Have you eaten?” is a popular way of saying hello. And the likely response is, “Yes, I have but I’m starting to get peckish.”

Beyond the fun and frivolity, putting food on Thai plates is big business. The department that Umpujh leads contributes the largest slice of the Mall Group’s overall revenue and Gourmet Market plans to double in size in five years, primarily via shop expansions. It’s fair to say that Bangkok’s premium supermarkets are home to some of the freshest concepts in food retail. — L


Ploychompu Umphujh, (centre)
Group general manager

The Umpujh family own The Mall Group and Ploychompu joined the company straight after graduation. Managing a team with decades of supermarket experience, she sees her role as bringing a fresh perspective to the traditional produce and grocery format. The 31-year-old began in leasing before switching to the food department. “Food retail is more fun,” she says. “I love to create events and new concepts.”

From left toright:
1. Adithep Saomok Sales representative, fruit Durian season begins in April – I can’t wait.

2. Napaporn Wongmas Assistant general manager, Gourmet Eats Joined Umpujh’s team a year ago but she has been with the company for more than 15 years.

3. Thanida Limsirivallop General manager of merchandising, Gourmet Eats When international food brands come to Thailand, she’s in charge of bringing them to us first.

4. Rewadee Arunyakanont Assistant manager, Gourmet Market She handles promotions and the planogram system; in other words, how products are placed on the shelves.

5. Yarnintorn Temiyaputra General manager of operation, Gourmet Market, Siam Paragon He looks after all of the operations at the flagship store, from customer service to controlling the area where suppliers come to drop off products every morning.

6. Pongsak Oransuwanchai Group general manager, supermarket merchandising (food) He goes to the local street-food stalls to convince the owners to come into malls.

7. Pakawat Chintacanun Group general manager, supermarket merchandising Industry veteran who knows everything about the fresh department and seasonal products.

8. Watsakarn Pongsanguansuk Group general manager, supermarket merchandising (grocery) A proven executor. When asked for different merchandising from abroad, she always makes things happen.

9. Saknarin Kamphrommee Sales representative, fruit Fresh fruit and vegetables generate the most sales.

10. Rapeepan Sawangchang Section manager Gourmet Fresh Apples are our biggest sellers and cherries sell really well on promotion.

11. Panita Haritaworn General manager, marketing, Gourmet Marketand Gourmet Eats Very creative, a good leader and not scared to try new things.

12. Chidchanok Boonchamnan Assistant general manager, marketing, Gourmet Market She mainly looks after Gourmet Market’s many events. End of the year and Songkran in April are the most important.

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