The first Watsons Vietnam store opened its doors this morning on the ground floor of Ho Chi Minh City’s high-profile Bitexco tower.
Queues formed in advance of the 10am opening time, local shoppers drawn by social media teasing during the past few weeks.
The 239sqm store features some 6000 SKUs, including about 700 of Watsons’ own-label range. The design is what the company refers to as its eighth generation store model, the same as its recently completed Bangkok flagship at IconSiam. It features a makeup station, a giant LED screen behind the counter, and international-style signage in English.
Watsons Vietnam business director Chakkaphob Nuangchamnong told Inside Retail Asia plans are already under way for a second store and the company aims to have 50 trading within five to seven years.
The Watsons Vietnam business is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison Holdings.
Nuangchamnong says the positive response by locals to social media news of the store’s Vietnamese debut proved the market was ready for the brand.
“Watsons is well known here because a lot of Vietnamese travel to Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong and they shop at our stores there. So we are trying very hard to deliver the same experience here.”
Significantly, Watsons Vietnam has launched with a full online-to-offline operating model with a local e-commerce site in both English and Vietnamese opening simultaneously. The brand’s loyalty program, smartphone app and customer relationship initiatives are all operational from today.
Nuangchamnong says the company is already talking to local suppliers with a view to stocking Vietnamese products “in the very near future” alongside its own and international brands.
“We want to work with other partners here.”
The Watsons Vietnam store will compete with rival Hong Kong healthcare and beauty chain Guardian, owned by Dairy Farm International, which launched in Ho Chi Minh City in 2011 and now claims to have more than 60 stores in four cities.
Robert Stockdill – Inside Retail Asia