Ikea opened it's first store in Thailand on 3rd November 2011. I was there at the opening, and two days later. SB Design Square opened it's new flagship store, only a few weeks ago. Both are near to each other along the Bangna Express way, so how did they fair?
From the video it looks like SB Design Square doesn't have enough customers to support a mall that size. My visit was deeply unpleasant, as you walk around sales men follow you ready to pounce, 'no photo' signs are everywhere. As I took out my camera and took a photo, a security guard behind me joined someone from the mall management. I put away my camera quickly. You're aware that eyes are on you as you walk around and look at furniture. I saw a table I liked, and office furniture that I prefer to Ikea, but mixed in among overpriced furniture with an unpleasant shopping experience.
(Added comment) If SB design management are reading this, take down the no photo signs, tell the sales staff to lighten up, go through the store and remove any badly made furniture. If you want to sell premium furniture, great, but I saw lots of melamine mixed in, and it caused me to view the rest of the furniture as lower quality by association.
Ikea was packed, any doubts that the Ikea formula would succeed in Thailand firmly put to rest. Even the restaurant was busy, selling Swedish meatballs.
I believe that within 2 years, Ikea will aggressively open new stores across Thailand, and that SB Design and perhaps Index stores will aggressively close stores.
While I was in Ikea a little life tragedy unfolded. A nice woman was dreaming of the life she would have with her new English boyfriend, sitting at a 12 place Ikea table. When she heard me speak English, she asked me about a letter she had from him. A short chat with her, she had been on the Internet dating site, an English man had contacted her, and agreed to marry her without meeting her and was sending her money for the marriage, alarm bells started ringing in my head.
As I read the letter my heart sunk, it was a letter from HSBC bank guaranteeing that her boyfriend 'Mr Kenneth Brown' had sent 100,000 GBP. As I explained to her it was a fake letter, there is no such place as 'Manchester London' - those are two different cities. The postcode '7960' is not a real British postcode, 'Crescent' means 'soi' in English, and 'Lane' also means 'Soi', so it had two street names when there should only be one. His address was fake.
The bank would never send such a letter by Internet, if he had sent the money then she would have the money in her account. The logo was taken from the Internet, there was no bank address or telephone number. I warned her this is an internet scam, he just wants to rob her, and she should not sign anything, or send him have a copy of her signature, or let him have her bank password. Her face sank.
But as I turned over the letter, it was clear that she was in denial about it. She had already visited her bank, they had told her to contact email@example.com.She had a second letter from them, but that made things more confusing. Instead of saying "this is a scam, we never send letters like this, contact your bank to alert them", it was a generic letter about how to detect fraudulent scams and not to give out your password or bank information.
She also explained that he had already lied to her, he said he was sending her a present, but that she would have to pay the import duty on it, and she'd sent him some money but the present didn't arrive.
After we went over and over this several times, I decided I had to go, even after being told it was a scam, she so wants to believe it's true that I suspected she'd send him more money if he tells her the transfer couldn't go through due to some 'fee' that she had to pay.
Map to the two stores below:
View Ikea vs SB Design Square in a larger map