French retailer Casino is looking to tap into a trend among Thai consumers to shop more at convenience stores.

Casino’s Thai retailer Big C is planning to spend THB8-9bn (US$275.7-310.1m) on expanding its business in 2013.

Big C’s plans include opening 219 stores to take its network to 567 outlets. However, the bulk of its expansion will be in the convenience channel. At the end of 2012, 126 of Big C’s 348 stores were its Mini C convenience outlets. By the end of this year, it wants 276 c-stores.

“The Thai market is still very traditional with traditional trade representing about 52% of the market. Super and hypermarkets sales are slightly larger than convenience sales, but the trend is in favour of convenience, which gained about 3% market share last year due to strong expansion,” Casino told just-food.

Big C’s longer-term ambitions in Thailand’s convenience channel include a forecourt tie-up with Bangchak Petroleum. “We have an exclusive agreement to open up to 500 mini Big C stores in Bangchak gas stations by 2018,” Casino said.

The Thai retailer’s expansion plans also include opening six hypermarkets to take the number of big-box stores to 119. Big C is also lining up 13 more supermarkets to take the number to 31 and wants to open 50 more Pure drug stores. It will then have 141 Pure outlets.

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In 2012, the company booked a 9.3% increase in annual sales to THB112.1bn. Same-store sales were up 5.3%. Gross profit was 6.9% higher at THB16.12bn.