PHUKET: Lotus yesterday opened its new super store on the edge of Phuket Town, the company’s 17th in Thailand. The “soft” opening caused huge traffic jams in all direction as shoppers rushed to check the place out. Grinning widely, Gwyn Sundhagul, Senior Vice President of Operations, admitted that the company, which is majority-owned by British retailing giant Tesco, had underestimated Phuket people’s interest in the store. “We expected around 15,000 people for the soft opening, but four times that number turned up yesterday.” Gwyn explained that, as a measure to alleviate traffic problems, Lotus has 3,000 alternative parking spaces away from the store, in addition to the 870 on site. Free bus services are being provided between these alternative parking lots and the super store, Gwyn said. Senior company executives said they believe the traffic problems will dwindle in a week or so, once the initial excitement of the opening has died down. Apart from this problem, everything else about the opening had gone well, they said. “Usually, soft openings are when we address problems so that we can improve our services and increase efficiency and convenience to customers,” said Jeff Adams, Senior Executive Vice President. “We have been working closely with the traffic police. There are 20-30 police assisting outside the store, and we have hired extra security during this busy time to show customers where to go.” Lotus hopes that its policy of selling items at [what the company claims are] lower prices than any other store in Phuket, combined with the large range of products on its shelves, will continue to attract large numbers of shoppers. Joseph Cheng, the store’s Manager, said that any shopper finding products in other stores at prices lower than those at Lotus, will be entitled to a refund of the difference, provided that the item at the other store is not being sold in a special promotion.
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