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Tesco Plans Major Expansion of Thai Gas-Express Stores

BANGKOK - British retailer Tesco has announced its intention to expand its mini-supermarkets at gas stations in Thailand, with as many as 40 Tesco Lotus Express outlets to be constructed over the next 18 months.

Its Thai subsidiary, Tesco Lotus, recently reached an agreement with Esso (Thailand) Plc, the local unit of U.S. energy group ExxonMobil Corp, to go ahead with the stores at their service stations, according to local reports.

The agreement comes in the wake of the successful trial run of six Tesco Lotus Express locations at Esso (Thailand)-owned gas stations in Bangkok and its suburbs a couple of years ago, and is a major move by Tesco Lotus, officially known as Ek-Chai Distribution System, to expand the market penetration of its retailing businesses. The Tesco Lotus Express locations will compete directly with community supermarkets, convenience stores and grocery stores.

Currently there are 47 Tesco Lotus hypermarkets throughout the country, along with five Tesco Lotus 'Kook Kha' (Thai for value) stores located in less-populated communities, according to reports. Those stores carry about half as many of the items offered by the hypermarkets.

Additionally, there are 11 Tesco Lotus Express mini-supermarkets at Esso stations, and one Tesco Lotus supermarket engaged in a trial run in a suburb of Bangkok.
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