Costs soar, but Siam Paragon on course for Nov 1 opening
The Nation, Published on June 27, 2005

All traffic will lead to Siam Paragon when it opens on November 1, with the centre’s world-class shopping and entertainment promising to make it the jewel in Bangkok’s retail crown.

Kriengsak Tantiphipop, the chief marketing officer of Siam Paragon Development Co Ltd, says he visits the ideally located 52-rai site almost every day to keep an eye on the progress of the giant complex, which will be able to accommodate more than 100,000 visitors a day.

“Next month, we’ll let the retailers send their people in to work on the interior decoration of their stores. Things are moving on schedule and we are quite happy with the progress,” he said.

Siam Paragon Development is a 50/50 joint venture between the Mall Group (operators of The Mall Department Store and The Emporium) and Siam Piwat Co Ltd (owners of the Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, Siam Tower, and Siam Car Park).

The partnership is investing Bt14 billion in Siam Paragon and is now racing against time so that the complex can open on November 1. The official launch is scheduled for December 9.

The overall investment in Siam Paragon has increased by 120 per cent, from Bt6 billion to Bt14 billion. The interior and construction costs have been increasing all the time. There are more than 100 architects and designers, both local and international, involved.

Materials for the interior decoration have been imported from around the world and – as a result of higher oil prices – the construction costs have also increased by 30 to 40 per cent.

The company is setting a marketing budget for use during the first year of operations that could reach as much as Bt1 billion. The marketing activities will not only cover Thailand, but also access other countries in the region in order to attract foreign visitors.

Kriengsak expects the traffic around Siam Square, the prime commercial property area of Bangkok, to grow sharply once Siam Paragon is open. The Skytrain’s Siam station currently handles some 60,000 passengers a day. This number is expected to soar to 150,000 passengers once the complex opens.

Siam Paragon is located on a 52-rai property, which is part of the Sa Pathum Palace, owned by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. This has added to the project’s distinction. The centre faces onto Rama I Road with Phya Thai Road to the west, Phetchaburi Road behind it and Rajprasong Road to the east. A road will be cleared so that the traffic can move from Siam Paragon to Phetchaburi Road.

The 550,000 square-metre shopping complex is developed around eight concepts to serve the family, the general consumer and the foreign tourist. There will be more than 300 outlets catering to all kinds of lifestyle and leisure pursuits, entertainment and technology, with restaurants, convention centres, jewellery stores and department stores among them.

The eight concepts are located in three main zones: the Paragon Department Store, which occupies 80,000 square metres; the shopping zone, which includes Dining Paradise, Fashion Venue, Art, Crafts, and IT World; and the entertainment zone. The entertainment zone comprises Siam Ocean World, The Paragon Cinepolis, The Siam Opera, and the Royal Paragon Hall.

Each participating shop and store has been meticulously selected. Siam Ocean World, for example, will be the largest aquarium in the southern hemisphere, with more than 400 species of aquatic life and 30,000 fish. The 1,800-seat Siam Opera will be created in a Broadway style, though it will not be completed until the middle of next year. “The Phantom of the Opera” is being pitched as the opening show at the Opera.

The Royal Paragon Hall will be a modern exhibition and convention centre.

Kriengsak said Siam Paragon’s location on Rama I Road and linked with Phloenchit Road and Sukhumvit Road will make it Bangkok’s shopping hub, “similar to Fifth Avenue in New York, Nathan Road in Hong Kong or Orchard Road in Singapore”.

At present, there are several shopping complexes around this area, such as the Mah Boonkrong Centre, the Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, Gaysorn Plaza, Central Chidlom, Robinson Rachaprarop and The Emporium Sukhumvit.

But as Siam Paragon’s high- to mid-range target clientele will be able to find everything within the store, this is likely to affect the other shopping complexes in the area. Mah Boonkrong may be the only place that is safe as it is recognised as a “bargaining market”, which attracts low purchasing-power consumers such as teenagers.

Kriengsak said all the other shopping complexes would have to adjust and find their own niche markets after the opening of Siam Paragon.

Many of these complexes have already been renovated, including Siam Centre, Central World (which is to include a hotel, office building, and expanded shopping area among its renovations), Gaysorn Plaza, and The Emporium.

Once Siam Paragon is up and running, Siam Paragon Development will continue with the rest of its project to build a 250-unit service apartment and a 300-room five-star hotel to be managed by the Kempinski international hotel chain.

Nida Asawanipont, Thanong Khanthong