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Last updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2019

 

Author of Snow Town: "To grow the business, shopping centers need to make the difference"

Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Kotaro Maru, director of Snow Town & Ice Rink who brought snow to Vietnam, said that shopping centers would need to create a unique feature and make the difference if they wanted to attract customers from other areas.

Kotaro Maru, Director of Snow Town & Ice Rink under Showa Holdings Co., Ltd. who brought snow to Vietnam, had an interview with reporters about a new trend for shopping centers in the increasing competition in Vietnam.

The market may remember the "wave" of closures of shopping centers in Vietnam by the end of 2016. Notably, Parkson closed the last shopping center in Thai Ha, Hanoi after 8 years of operation. The same gloomy situation was seen at the Taka Plaza 2, Saigon Mall, Lucky Plaza...

SHOPPING CENTERS NEED THE DIFFERENCE

Kotaro Maru said that the Gateway Ekkamai (Bangkok, Thailand) previously had problem in attracting new customers. They wanted to have a business plan for opening an amusement park which was different from those in other shopping centers.

"They talked to me and I introduced this model to them. I also invested in the project. In fact, since the operation of Snow Town Bangkok in 2015, it is estimated that the revenue at Gateway Ekkamai has grown an average of 63% per year.” he said.

Showa Holdings is aiming to franchise Snow Town, so who is your target partner?
Snow Town does not only bring benefit from its services but also helps in attracting residents and customers to the complex where it is located.

Customers will not only go to Snow Town and use merely its services. Accompanying services and shops around Snow Town will also benefit.

“Actually, anyone can make snow and snow machine was built in various types long ago by engineers in Japan and other countries. I and my company only researched, innovated and created a model that keeps the snowflakes unmelted at room temperature – about 20 degree. To prevent snow from melting at this temperature, we calculated many factors, including building structure and materials, wind circulation… I am just the calculator and keeper of this technology”, said Kotaro Maru.

In the past, owners of residential areas or shopping centers used to integrate cinemas and parks…to attract customers. But now, they are no longer the unique feature because they are available everywhere.

Snow Town is very different. It is suitable and meets the needs of many types of customers.

The greatest value of Snow Town lies in its ability to create a unique feature and attract customers to boost sales in shopping centers and the complex where it is located.

How much does it cost to invest in a standard Snow Town model?
The cost to invest in a Snow Town snow-making system is about JPY 100 million.

Including the cost of design, construction..., the total cost for a standard Snow Town project is about JPY 300 million ($ 3 million).

What is your plan to develop Snow Town model in Vietnam?
In the near future, we are going to launch two more franchised Snow Towns in Hanoi and Da Nang.

We aim to develop our projects at the center areas where Snow Town achieves its best performance.

THE MAN WHO BROUGHT SNOW TO VIETNAM

What led you to the idea of Snow Town?
Previously, there were about 500 ski areas across Japan. Japan was also the world leader in the number of skiers. Skiing demand was huge even in non-snow seasons, such as summer.

This gave rise to the research and development of artificial snow technology in Japan.

However, as the number of children born each year in Japan decreases, the demand for ski areas is also decreasing.

Seeing that, I wanted to improve this snow-making technology for use in indoor play areas in other Asian countries where the number of children is increasing. That was the origin of the idea of Snow Town.

Don’t you just provide snow machine?
This business model is not limited to snow-making equipment. It also includes other technologies used in children's recreational areas in Japan, such as ferris wheel, ice rink, children's playground ... But as I said, these products and technologies in Japan are decreasing due to birth rate decline.
Inside Snow Town, we integrate restaurant for families, night bar for youths, music and super-vision for events.

In 2015, we exported and operated the first Snow Town in Bangkok. I was the founder, supplier of equipment, designer of architecture and icon of this business model.
In March this year, Snow Town opened in Ho Chi Minh City. Snow Town Saigon was perfected, innovated and optimized from our experience in Bang Kok.

But Vietnam is a tropical country where snow is not available. Thus, most ofVietnamese people do not have snow culture and necessary skills to play snowy sports?

The climate in Vietnam is similar to Thailand. The Snow Town in Bangkok has been operating for two years with very positive results. The number of visitors have been increasing and remaining high.

Snow Town Saigon has also been achieving satisfactory results since opening. At the holidays, we estimate that there are usually 6 to 7 thousand customers coming to visit and play at this amusement park.

Initially, the idea of Snow Town was aimed at children. This model is different from those requiring experience and sports skills. Customers coming to Snow Town do not necessarily have to skate or ski.

There are many snow games that require no experience or skill. It can be simply walking in the snow and relaxing with snow. Snow Town will help tropical country citizens have temperate experience in their own countries.

Especially, you don’t need to wear winter clothes in Snow Town. With our technology, snow is kept at room temperature (about 20 degrees Celsius). And inside Snow Town, air temperature is always maintained at 18 degrees Celsius, not too cold.

That is why you see, customers coming to Snow Town still wear shorts, or summer clothes. Snow Town customers can enjoy playing with snow and eating food at 18 degrees Celsius for a long time. This offers an important advantage to owners, increasing the average sales per customer.

In all the other snow facilities in the world, customers feel cold and cannot stay long.

Snow Town & Ice Rink is, a company under Showa Holdings – the multi-industry corporation listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (Code: 5103) with capitalization value of JPY 12 billion.
Showa Hodings is launching projects in Vietnam in various fields, from finance, rubber to digital contents and entertainment, etc.
At the end of March, the Snow Town model was launched and operated at Snow Town Saigon in The CBD Premium Home in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City through the franchise to a Vietnamese partner.
Snow Town Saigon is the second franchised Snow Town outside Japan after the first one in Gateway Ekkamai shopping mall, Bangkok, Thailand.
The corporation is negotiating the contract and preparing to export the Snow Town model to Indonesia, Taiwan, China.

Ngan Giang

 








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