Following in the tradition of Japanese retailers like Loft, Daiso and Muji that bring chic to everyday items and are consummate visual merchandisers, Thailand’s Moshi Moshi has gone into full expansion mode with a concept that uses the same template. Even the name Moshi Moshi is a Japanese phrase — it’s an informal way of saying “hello” when answering a phone call from a family member or friend — and given the love of Thai people for Japanese culture and products, that isn’
n’t such a bad marketing tool. The company is flush with funds after a successful launch on the Thai stock exchange in December last year, and is looking to put it to work by dominating the Thai market in what the company mysteriously refers to as the “retail lifestyle” category, of which it claims to already have a 38 per cent market share. It isn’t clear who has the other 62 per cent, but regardless, Moshi Moshi’s current expansion is aimed at filling what the company sees as numerous gaps in the national market that are not currently covered by the existing 117-strong store fleet. In a world where most mall tenant growth is coming from food and beverage, services and leisure, the existence of retailers like Moshi Moshi in other categories still expanding aggressively is refreshing. Something for everyone, particularly if you are young and female Moshi Moshi sells exclusive merchandise in 12 categories: home furnishing, bags, stationery, cosmetics, fashion, beauty, apparel, food and drinks, plush toys, IT gadgets, toys, and ‘other’. Some stores also sell pet accessories. Much of the merchandise is themed with well-known cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and characters from the Peanuts cartoon. These characters are licensed, but the retailer also has collaborations with lesser-known local designers too. This kind of theming either limits the target market or sharpens it, depending on your view, but either way the concept appeals primarily to young females. Even so, the retailer can still attract a lot of devotees up into the mid-20s and there are specific products — for example, own-branded perfumes starting at 69 baht (about US$2) for a 10ml bottle, and highly functional but stylish stuff like hanging toiletry bags (199 baht) — that attract customers in a more mature age bracket. What makes Moshi Moshi special? Moshi Moshi’s stated vision is “bringing happiness through the creation of exquisitely designed products”. This is apt, because what makes Moshi Moshi exciting is that it imbues mundane everyday items with outstanding design and brings them to life. It is hard to bring compelling design to a food storage container, a toothbrush, or an airplane neck pillow, but Moshi Moshi does it routinely with every object in the store. A journey through Moshi Moshi is a treasure hunt: you don’t know what interesting item that you never knew you needed is waiting at the next installation. The stores are tidily laid out in the Japanese way, economical with the space and striving to make an impact with every square millimetre. And again like Miniso, Daiso, Muji and other Japanese retailers in the merchandise spaces that overlap with some of Moshi Moshi’s, the pricing is very sharp and somewhat resistant to economic cycles. Moshi Moshi’s expansion path As of mid-October, Moshi Moshi’s 117 stores were spread out over the country, from Chiang Rai in the extreme north all the way down to Songkhla 1700 kilometres away in the far south. Its ambition is to open 20 stores in high-potential locations this year, and so far is only just over halfway to its target. To date, it only has a presence in Bangkok and 44 of Thailand’s 76 provinces, so there is still plenty of low-hanging fruit. The stores are located in regional malls and the many smaller shopping centres dotted around Thailand that are anchored by the hypermarkets Big C and Lotus’s. One of the beauties of the concept is that its merchandise orientation, target market and price points all lend themselves to the retailer easily locating in the whole range of shopping mall formats, from the provincial hypermarket centres to upscale regional malls in the capital. The company is also experimenting with a few freestanding locations in small markets, evidently testing the waters for franchising. Moshi Moshi wants to end the year with 20 per cent revenue growth on 2022, driven primarily by an increase in the number of stores and a continuation of the explosive same-store sales growth it has been getting in the first half of the year. On the former, it aims for 125 stores by the end of the year and increasing by another 20 units in each of 2024 and 2025. For its part, same-store sales growth will be sustained through continuous product development and introductions, including the creation of a new line of merchandise called ‘Garlic’, which offers a more minimalist design for home décor and lifestyle products and is targeting women aged 18-25. The stock market loves it Revenue in the first half of the year was 1.155 billion Thai baht (US$33 million), up 46 per cent on the same six months in 2022. Gross margin percentage was healthy 52.9 per cent, as was the net profit margin of 14.5 per cent. The stock market has given Moshi Moshi a thumbs-up: at the market close on October 27 its shares were priced 37 per cent higher than on its debut ten months ago. So far, so good, but in terms of revenues Moshi Moshi is still a minnow, and a long way short of where it can go. Once Thailand is saturated, which will take a few years, the concept seems workable in a number of other markets in the region. Indeed, by the end of 2025 the company has signalled its intent to have a footprint elsewhere in Southeast Asia outside of Thailand, an ambition that should be well within its reach.