Thailand’s booming luxury market surpasses Singapore, fueled by Gen Z, K-pop, and ‘T-pop’

    With world-class malls and renowned celebrities, Thailand is becoming a significant global luxury market. How can brands attract its high-spending consumers?
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      Published   in Consumer

    When Dior held its Spring/Summer 2024 show in Paris in September, the crowds came out screaming. But the buzz wasn’t for the new collection, but rather for the appearance of the maison’s brand ambassadors Nattawin “Apo” Wattanagitiphat and Phakphum “Mile” Romsaithong, two of Thailand’s hottest actors.

    “A lot of Thai actors — actors, not actresses — have become the new K-pop stars because they have crazy fans around the world. For Dior in Paris, for example, [people] didn’t come for Robert Pattinson. They didn’t come for Western celebrities. They came for all these [Thai] boys,” says luxury brand consultant Nichapat Suphap.

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    Thai actors have become the new K-pop stars... For Dior in Paris, for example, fans didn’t come for Robert Pattinson. They came for the Thai boys.

    Wattanagitiphat and Romsaithong, co-stars of the hit Thai BL (boys’ love) drama KinnPorsche, are just two of several Thai celebrities serving as luxury brand ambassadors thanks to their growing legion of fans.

    Over the past year, Gucci recruited actress Davika “Mai” Hoorne; Prada onboarded actor Metawin “Win” Opas-iamkajorn; and Dior added actress Tontawan Tantivejakul to its roster.

    Celebrities aren’t the only reason luxury brands are eyeing the country. Thailand’s luxury market is predicted to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.62 percent from about $4.64 billion this year through 2028, says Angelito Perez Tan, Jr., co-founder and CEO of RTG Group Asia.

    Below is a closer look at Thailand’s thriving luxury market and what global brands should know about the increasingly important Thai consumer.

    Thailand not overshadowed by Singapore#

    While Singapore is often considered Southeast Asia’s hub for business and shopping, Thailand is striving to become a top-of-mind luxury destination. And it has actually surpassed Singapore in luxury market size, with the latter being valued at $4.06 billion in 2023 and set to experience a slower CAGR of 3.49 percent between 2023 and 2028, says Tan.

    Albeit similar in value, the two markets are fueled by very different categories in luxury retail.

    “Thailand is bigger on luxury fashion and generates a significant part of its luxury revenues from this sector, while Singapore is largely driven by the luxury watches and jewelry category,” Tan says.

    Additionally, Thailand’s luxury retail scene is driven by locals, whereas Singapore’s is driven by tourist consumption. “This, however, might change now with China’s visa-free policy to Thailand,” he adds.

    Thai luxury consumers are young and celebrity-driven#

    Among these local consumers, the younger generations are serving as the growth engine for Thailand’s luxury development.

    For this demographic, K-pop and T-pop (Thai pop) are big drivers of consumption, with young fashionistas wanting to emulate their favorite stars. Suphap, who also runs a Thai talent agency called The Venture Management that represents Wattanagitiphat and Romsaithong, notes that Thai BL actors are especially good at steering shoppers toward stores.

    “Before they signed these two boys to become the face of Dior, nobody shopped Dior [in Thailand] so much. The influence of them is so crazy because the fans are so dedicated,” she tells Jing Daily.

    Tan echoes this point, noting that the celebrity factor certainly contributes to generating awareness and sales for luxury brands.

    "Apo" Wattanagitiphat and "Mile" Romsaithong attended Dior Men's Summer 2024 show in June. Photo: Dior
    "Apo" Wattanagitiphat and "Mile" Romsaithong attended Dior Men's Summer 2024 show in June. Photo: Dior

    “Loyal idol fandoms are also known for their ability to drive sales through fans who ‘support’ their idols by purchasing everything they endorse. However, because of the income disparity in the Thai market, the pool of wealthy idol fans tends to be smaller than in a market like Singapore, for instance, further limiting the overall sales impact as well,” Tan says.

    Thai consumers track social media trends#

    Besides products peddled by their favorite stars, young consumers are also looking out for trendy items on social media.

    “I normally follow different models and bloggers through their social media like Instagram,” says Jarr Panitchanok, a 33-year-old luxury shopper born and raised in Bangkok. “I see what’s trending and that influences me in buying some of those products. Also, price and how versatile it is to fit with my overall style are what I consider before buying.”

    While Panitchanok is more interested in classic models like the Hermès Kelly or Rolex Datejust, she also likes to show her support for local designer brands like Boyy and Pipatchara. “It’s nice to be using the brands especially outside of the country and tell people it’s a Thai designer,” she adds.

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    According to Umaporn Whittaker-Thompson, Group VP of Consumer Communications at Southeast Asian consultancy Vero, “The younger demographic and entrepreneurial class, influenced by key opinion consumers on platforms like TikTok, are actively seeking luxury products as a form of self-reward and a long-term investment. Their belief in the value and prestige associated with luxury items is strengthened by their higher quality, ensuring durability despite a higher upfront cost.”

    Thai consumers crave compelling retail experiences#

    Given this view of luxury purchases as “self-rewarding experiences,” as Whittaker-Thompson puts it, “the act of spending time in a shop that provides a creative and inspiring atmosphere becomes a significant part of the luxury shopping journey.”

    This can look like Hermès bringing its “In the Making” event, which features live demonstrations and films, to Thai consumers to showcase its craftsmanship, or Cartier hosting gift wrapping and flower arrangement workshops for festive gifting.

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    E-commerce and social channels are integral to the purchasing journey of affluent Thai shoppers. Every aspect, from discovering products and services to gathering information... takes place online

    In addition to sensory in-person experiences, affluent Thais also desire a seamless online-to-offline transition from the start, says Bangkok-based Prapasri Vasuhirun, VP of Vero Xperience, Vero’s events unit.

    “E-commerce and social channels are integral to the purchasing journey of affluent Thai shoppers. Every aspect, from discovering products and services to gathering information, perusing user reviews, making purchases, and offering feedback, takes place online,” says Vasuhirun.

    In particular, Line has emerged as a promising platform for luxury brands. The messaging platform has a reach of 54 million Thais, making it the most popular messaging app in the country. Not only does it serve as a sales channel, where administrators can close sales via live chats, but it also enables brands to broadcast livestreams and boost brand awareness through stickers and ads.

    The Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collaboration included stickers for Line users in Thailand. Photo: Line
    The Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collaboration included stickers for Line users in Thailand. Photo: Line

    While local brands have used Line to sell merchandise for years, luxury ones are starting to jump on the bandwagon, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Cartier. According to Line Thailand, there was a 20 percent year-on-year increase in the number of official luxury brand accounts this year, and the number of users following these accounts rose by more than 40 percent.

    The time to enter Thailand is now#

    When asked about why brands should enter Thailand now, Vasuhirun refers back to the country’s booming retail landscape.

    “Thailand’s retail business is experiencing a resurgence this year, with multiple mega luxury malls opening, such as EmSphere, Central WestVille, and One Bangkok (scheduled to open the first phase of the project by mid-next year),” she says.

    Meanwhile, Whittaker-Thompson reiterates the growing demand for luxury goods domestically, reflecting the shift in preferences influenced by social media.

    Together, these factors are turning Thailand into a serious luxury player — not just among Southeast Asian nations but at an international level. Plus, with an expanding global footprint thanks to its entertainment industry, Thailand is evolving into a significant consumer and trendsetting force, setting the stage for a new era of influence in luxury fashion.

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