The Keys to Contour's success

08 Jan 2010 

Predicting shoppers' behaviour vital : design firm

The key to the success of Contour, a retail brand-identity builder and design consultant, particularly well-known for community malls, is its accuracy in predicting shoppers' behaviour.

In a recent interview , Contour's executives talked to The Nation about their strengths in community mall design, their core business and the trend in community malls this year.

The company has designed - the J Avenue projects of Siam Future Development such as Major Avenue Ratchayothin, J Avenue Thonglor and The Avenue Pattaya; PTT's flagship gas stations at the entrance and the exit of the Bang Na second stage expressways; and Carrefour hyper market at Udomsuk.

What are Contour's keys to success in designing a community mall?

Jade: The most difficult thing in designing one community mall is the accuracy in predicting future shopping behaviour. We have to [predict] shoppers' experiences at least over the next three to five years in order to use that information for designing.

Firstly, we have to know who are the clients around that area who will be involved in a community mall.

What is their shopping behaviour?

Sudhisak: Factors that we have to predict are behaviour for end users, developers and retailers. If shoppers in that area are families, what shops should we have in a community mall? What is the first shop that clients will go to, and what is the second and third? We will design retail shops and make them flow for shoppers.

The other important factor is location. We will not take projects that we consider are not situated in good locations for community malls. If the projects have a high chance of failing due to the location factor, we must dare to tell our clients. We work as a partnership with our clients. So, we should tell them if there are factors that might lead to business failure.

Sorachat: We have to predict the future together while considering social factors before designing. We must have a future vision and logic to support our design work. We should not miss shoppers' experience discoveries in order to make our designs a success.

What are the criteria for designing one community mall?

Jade: The first criterion is "massclusivity", the community mall's exclusive design for the mass target group.

Verapong: Community malls are the new trend for people nowadays. It is different from other shopping malls and department stores.

Some people prefer going to community malls because they think that it suits their lifestyles, but some do not like them.

Various people come to community malls for several purposes. So, we have to design exclusive community malls for the masses.

Jade: The second criterion is "hybrid community". There are various retail shops, restaurants, bakery shops and banks in one community mall. Those shops should be designed to link to each other.

We have to think what shops should be situated next to restaurants - or after clients shop in apparel stores, what are their next requirements? The community malls' final quality should be unity.

Sudhisak: The third is "multilevel moving". Malls nowadays are not only viewed from one dimension or from the first floor of those malls.

Besides, community malls do not mean only stand-alone malls. They may be located in luxury condominiums in the central business district or adjacent to the Skytrain. So those malls should be beautiful from every dimension.

The last criterion is "green heart". The green trend is not a fashion for community malls but a trend happening everywhere.

Most community malls are open-air places where green is needed. And this can boost those community malls to sustainable growth. 

How do you study shopper behaviour or retail shop owners before designing?

Jade: We have a learning department to do cultural studies and human behaviour research. The learning team will study shopper behaviour in the areas to be developed into community malls. What are their needs?

What are the community mall trends for this year?

Jade: The community mall business in Thailand is booming. It has not reached saturation point. We attended an International Council of Shopping Centres meeting and some expert told us Thailand's community mall development and innovative design have gone further than in some developed countries.

During the boom times of the community mall business, three groups of businessmen entered this field - big mall players, property developers and landowners. The last is the newcomer after they saw an opportunity in this business.

Sorachat: Community malls will spread into the provinces this year.

Verapong: If we consider the economic environment this year, it's not worth investing in creating a community mall [now] because of declining consumer purchasing power. But if we consider in terms of whether an investment is worthwhile, this business is very interesting in the long term.

How about Contour's performance last year?

Verapong: The company's revenue grew by 50 per cent from 2007. It was not the highest point for us. It will come soon but we can't predict when. This year we may not prosper like last year because of the economic situation.

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