MC Group Plc started its jeans business in Thailand under its own Mc brand in 1975 and listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand last July. Today MC specialises in retail and distribution management of lifestyle products and services for brands under the group as well as other leading brands. Chief executive Sunee Seripanu discusses the company’s strategy and outlook.
What is MC’s business model?
Our company has evolved from a manufacturer of jeans to branding and building a network and now to lifestyle retailing. The evolution of our company required a change in our way of thinking about what products are required, how to test upcoming trends with the market and understand its needs and demands.
Today we are a lifestyle retail company with a diverse brand and product portfolio from apparel to fashion watches. We have more than 600 locations nationwide in both modern trade stores and our own shops and 10 locations internationally as well as a mobile unit and an online shopping business offering special prices on lifestyle items for trendy consumers.
Who are MC’s target customers?
Twenty years ago, our target customers were generally 15-40 years of age looking to purchase jeans, but now with more brands and product categories, our group of customers is very wide. It is very important to understand what customers’ lifestyles and desires are, which provides us with an understanding of new market trends and how we can adjust our brands’ positioning.
MC recently purchased TimeDeco. What was the reason for this and is MC looking for more retail-related acquisitions?
Times have changed, and the market has evolved. I have noticed that nowadays there are watch stores on almost every street corner in major shopping districts in the US, Europe and Japan. A watch has become more than just a device to check the time but a style statement conveying a unique personal identity. People today show their character via their fashion — they have an outfit for work, for leisure, for going to the beach, so market demand has changed.
Because TimeDeco has been one of the leading importers, retailers and exclusive distributors in Thailand for more than 20 fashion and fashion luxury watches for men and women, with brands such as Fossil, DKNY, Burberry, Michael Kors and Armani Swiss among others, we are able to be a more complete lifestyle retail business. And we will expand further should the opportunity present itself for us to expand our portfolio of products within the lifestyle retail business.
What differentiates MC from its competitors?
First and foremost, we are proud to be a strong Thai brand with the No.1 market share in Thailand today. The major US, European and Japanese brands are very large organisations, and we have the mindset that we are continuously competing against them to ensure that our brands thrive and do well in the marketplace. We also focus strongly on the quality of the material we use, the quality of the workmanship and to ensure the fit of our apparel suits Asian sizes.
There has been much talk of a consumption slowdown affecting the industry. Is this affecting MC?
We understood from day one with the government policies in 2012 that there would be an impact on consumer spending in 2013. Politics also has made an impact on the business, but it is not that our target groups of customers have a purchasing issue — it has more to do with the mood for shopping.
During political crises, it is normal for consumer spending to decline, and what we have done to combat this is to expand our product assortments at different price points to serve market demand better. Also, we are making it more convenient for consumers to shop by bringing our products to the customers with our mobile units. Initially it was meant to promote our brands but has become very successful, and we plan to expand this channel further.
What are the biggest risks facing your business?
We have to ensure our company and employees have the right mindset for commercial art. This means more than just designing but understanding how fashion, art and business work together. We conduct a lot of in-house training, inviting experts to train our staff so their mindset and thinking expand to understanding who our customers are.
What impact will the Asean Economic Community have on your business?
The AEC will offer us new market opportunities. However, we have to understand the idiosyncrasies of each market first, understand what the consumer wants, what business model will work, and see if the expansion opportunities are viable.
Where do you see MC in five years?
Today when consumers think of jeans there isn’t one brand that immediately comes to mind first, and we see this as an opportunity to further expand our brands’ recognition via marketing, store expansion and perhaps internationally as well. We are also taking the necessary steps today with an IT master plan, a new R&D and design centre and a new distribution centre to ensure MC will be a successful lifestyle retail company.
Source: Bangkok Post