Friday, June 7, 2013

Invasion of The Big Boxes

The big chain stores have finally found Thailand’s poorest province and it’s provincial capitol of Nong Bua Lamphu.

My wife loves them; especially here in the Isaan where the stores’ air conditioning can provide much needed relief on a blistering hot day.

My oldest son and I have opposed “big boxes” (named after the structures built to house the big chain store) at various times in our lives, mostly due to the tendency of these businesses to drive out smaller, more indigenous, retail shops; what sometimes are referred to as “mom and pop shops”.

I think the Big Boxes have their place as long as they don’t directly compete with other, smaller businesses. For instance, when I neede to set up a home LAN (local area network; home wi-fi), I shopped at the new Tesco-Lotus (locals call it “Low-tut”). They had a better variety of models to choose from and a return policy that was fair. Many stores in Thailand will not take an item back once purchased, no matter if it’s brand new, you bought it that day or the day before, and have a receipt. To me, that’s just bad business.

Remember when I wrote about the “building boom” going on? Our village is only about “seven clicks” (seven kilometers) from Nong Bua and only a couple of clicks away from the nearest Big Box. Consequently, a lot of the building taking place in our village is intended for housing of workers who will staff the Big Boxes. Basically, they are single room/bathroom apartments in unites of 5-to-8 clustered together here in the countryside.

I guess the presumption is that a lot of out-of-town labor will staff the Boxes. Presumably, also, this labor force will be young and single, or at least without children.

It remains to be seen whether young renters will want to be so far from the lights of the city, even if they are only using the apartments as sleeping pads. I certainly have my doubts about the viability of these rental units spouting up like crazy, not only from an economic standpoint (after all, I want our villagers to be successful), but also a cultural one. If these apartments do get rented out, how’s the character of the village going to change with so many young people moving in and out, who we don’t really know?

We will see.

1 comment:

Birdman said...

Big box controversy has spring up in Santa Cruz, often. But I recall being annoyed when the Mayor, whom owned a large independent bookstore, opposed Border's coming in. I felt it was a clear conflict of interest and he should have recused himself. As it was Borders came in and guess what, he lowered his prices. It was good for the city. I liked both places to shop at. Sadly, Borders went bankrupt but the Independent remains strong in a tough market. In America, my wife has often noted the good return policies in the USA and how much she enjoys that because it is hard to find in Thailand. Good post. Cheers.