Japan's furniture maker Kokuyo taps consumer business in Thailand

BANGKOK, NNA - After more than a dozen years of doing business for corporate customers in Thailand, Japanese office furniture and stationary manufacturer Kokuyo Co. has forayed into the consumer segment with the launch of a newly developed chair targeting health-conscious workers.

Kokuyo International (Thailand) Co., a local sales arm of the Osaka-based firm, recently rolled out an "ing" brand series of chairs featuring a seat that freely glides 360 degrees in any direction to help users feel less strain even during long desk work, aiming to tap into the business-to-consumer field this year, Kokuyo said.

The chair, ranging in price from 29,900 baht to 36,400 baht ($960 to $1,170), was developed for office workers in Japan whose sitting time is the longest among 20 major countries around the world, according to research data cited by Kokuyo.

The company has picked Southeast Asia's second-largest economy as the first country outside Japan to launch the product in anticipation of demand from locals such as entrepreneurs and freelancers.

CEO Tarida Klaipracha of the subsidiary said the Thai arm is planning to open retail outlets at Central Department Store run by local conglomerate Central Group, one of its stakeholders, while partnering with dealers to explore online sales channels.

The Thai unit aims to sell 1,000 units of the chair in the first year and a total of 10,000 units over the next three years.

Given anticipated sales expansion in the consumer segment, the company hopes to boost its entire revenue of 460 million baht last year to 600 million by 2020, with sales of the chair accounting for 5 percent of the total revenue expected then.

According to Kokuyo, the Thai furniture market in Thailand is worth 55 billion baht, with office furniture making up 10 percent of the total and growing 5 to 10 percent annually.

The Japanese company plans to put the product on sale in Singapore, Malaysia and China within this year. (NNA/Kyodo)