Thailand - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution and Sales Channels
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According to a 2021 Krungsri Research report, there are over 17,593 retail outlets, including 80 department stores, 390 discount stores, 480 supermarkets, and 17,003 convenience stores in Thailand.  Working through wholesalers and retailers promotes better market coverage. 

Distribution and sales of industrial goods in Thailand are normally conducted through two channels:

  • U.S. exporter, to Thai importer, to Thai end-user
  • U.S. exporter directly to Thai end-user

The selection of distribution and sales channels depends largely on the type of product and the end-user.  Exporters of products that require after-sales service should have a Thai importer representing them locally.  A local agent or distributor can respond more quickly to provide service and parts  replacement,  and increase client confidence.  Additionally, clients feel more comfortable dealing with a local agent or distributor since there are no language or distance barriers.  The agent or distributor helps clients navigate customs procedures. 

Furthermore, only local agents, distributors, or manufacturers’ branch offices in Thailand are eligible to bid on routine government tenders.  Please also see the sections in this chapter on “Selling Factors” and “Selling to the Government” for detailed information for international bidders.

For consumer goods, there are generally three distribution and sales channels:

  • U.S. exporter, to Thai importer, to Thai retailer, to Thai end-user
  • U.S. exporter, to Thai importer, to Thai wholesaler, retailer, and end-user
  • U.S. exporter, to Thai retailer, to end-user

Perishable consumer goods tend to go through the first channel, which is the fastest. In this case, importers usually also serve as wholesalers.  Non-perishable consumer goods normally go through the second or third channels.  The second channel seems to be the most favored, especially with lower-priced items.  There are over 18,490 retail outlets, including 80 department stores, 571 discount stores, 498 supermarkets, and 1,7341 convenience stores in Thailand, according to Krungsri Research.  Working through wholesalers and retailers will promote better market coverage.

Using an Agent or Distributor

Although Thai law does not require the use of local agents or distributors, it is one of the most efficient and effective ways to enter the market in Thailand.  A key aspect of business culture in Thailand is interpersonal relationships, which drive business development and transactions.  Thailand-based agents and distributors are accustomed to local business practices and requirements and well-positioned to develop and execute business in the market.  In addition, local agents and distributors typically manage regulatory affairs, acquire required import permits, manage customs clearance, and handle other logistics for U.S. exporters.

U.S. exporters must invest sufficient time and attention in selecting a qualified local partner and provide training for marketing and technical support.  Frequent contact with local representatives is essential to cultivating a productive working relationship.

Recommended ways to locate an agent or distributor in Thailand:

  • Use the Partner Search Service (IPS), IPS plus Virtual Introduction Service, or Gold Key Service (GKS) available from the Commercial Section, U.S. Embassy Bangkok.
  • Order an IPS report that provides a listing of Thai companies that have been interviewed and hand-selected by the Commercial Specialist responsible for your industry sector.  These companies have examined your product literature and company profile and expressed significant interest in exploring a potential business relationship with your firm.  You will receive a company profile and contact information for each Thai company that expresses interest in your product or services.
  • Should you plan to visit Thailand following receipt of the IPS report, we recommend utilizing our GKS.  Under the GKS, a Commercial Specialist will arrange one-on-one meetings with each potential Thai representative, arrange hotel and transportation, and accompany you to meetings.  If you are not in a position to travel to Thailand but wish to have face-to-face discussions with the Thai candidates, we can arrange virtual meetings by videoconference under our Virtual Introduction Service.  If you travel to the region to utilize one of our fee-based services, we strongly encourage you to consider undertaking a similar service in another market.  U.S. Commercial Service Staff at your local Export Assistance Center can help facilitate a multi-market visit to the region.
  • Participation in trade exhibitions in Thailand can also be an effective means to test the market and locate appropriate agents or distributors in Thailand.  Contact the Commercial Section at the U.S. Embassy in Thailand to learn more about regional trade events.

Establishing an Office

The primary organizational structures for commercial enterprises are sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, joint ventures, or foreign branch operations.  The organizational structure is similar in nature to those found in the United States; however, limited liability companies are more often privately held rather than public corporations.  Most foreign corporations operating in Thailand do so through private limited liability companies.

There are three major forms of partnership in Thailand:

  • Unregistered ordinary partnership
  • Registered ordinary partnership
  • Limited partnership

As in the United States, each form of partnership has different levels of liability for partners and different tax consequences for the partners and partnerships.  Generally, a private limited company is similar to a U.S. privately held corporation, while the latter may offer shares to the public.

Thailand also offers the possibility of establishing a representative or a regional office for companies engaged in non-revenue generating activities.  Typically, these offices engage in market research and assessment, provide quality control and purchasing services to a foreign head office, or provide warranty support services for products sold by the company’s head office to the Thai market.

When establishing an office, individuals and companies are strongly advised to consult with legal and other professional advisors during the beginning stages of business planning to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.  American firms should also ensure there are no restrictions on foreign entity participation in a particular sector, whether import licenses or other special licenses are required, and identify special incentives that may be available from Thai organizations such as the Board of Investment and the Industrial Estate Authority.

The U.S.-Thai Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations of 1833, commonly referred to as the Treaty of Amity, allows U.S. majority-owned businesses or branch offices incorporated in Thailand to operate in business sectors generally prohibited for foreign firms according to the Foreign Business Act, B.E. 2542 (1999).  However, there are still government restrictions in the following areas: communications, transport, banking, exploitation of land and natural resources, and the trade of domestic agricultural products.  To register under the Treaty of Amity, a U.S. company must obtain documents from the Commercial Section at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and file an application with the Department of Commercial Registration at the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

For the latest Investment Climate Statement (ICS) which includes information on investment and business environments in foreign economies pertinent to establishing and operating an office and to hiring employees, visit the U.S. Department of Department of State’s Investment Climate Statements website.


According to the Thai Franchise Center report, Thailand’s franchise business grew 10 to 20 percent or from $7.96 to $9.96 billion in 2022, due primarily to the rebounding tourism market and rising consumer confidence.  Experts forecast that the franchise industry will grow 20 percent in 2023 compared to 10 percent in 2022. This 20 percent growth is a result of the sustained post-COVID economic recovery. 

The dine-in restaurant business expects to recover and generate revenue up to $7.1 billion in 2023 after reporting a contraction in 2022 due to business needs, such as importing specific ingredients or raw materials.  However, the total expected value is still lower than before the pandemic.  Franchisors face additional challenges, including food supply-chain issues, working capital challenges, increased global energy prices, and lower revenue. 

AnchorAnchorAnchorAnchorAnchorU.S. brands account for more than half of the market for international franchises in Thailand.  The quality, standards, brands, and innovations offered by U.S. franchises are well known to potential Thai investors.  Franchising fees required by U.S. companies are perceived as very high, and start-ups require a huge capital investment, compared to the local franchises.  Local franchise fees under the master franchise model can range from $1,428 - $85,715.  

Currency fluctuations can also affect attractiveness of U.S. franchises. When the Thai baht is weak, fewer Thai investors have the financial means to apply for franchise licenses, set up new management teams, and operate U.S. brands.  Thai investors are also interested in partnering or setting up joint venture companies with well-known foreign companies to promote brands and accelerate expanding outlets locally.

Demand for American food franchises in Thailand are driven by expatriates and tourists.  Thailand’s vibrant tourism industry also supports growth of the restaurant industry in Thailand.  Moreover, service franchises and educational franchises have increased by 33 percent and 20 percent respectively since 2005, according to the Thai Franchise Center.  In addition to offering products and services that are well-liked by Thai consumers, identifying a strong local partner, with strong financial capabilities and experience in franchising, is a key factor for future development opportunities.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is an effective means to share information about products and services with consumers through various media in both traditional and online channels, including online advertisements, email, websites, cell phones, television, catalogs, radio, and newspapers.  As a result of mobile application development and online marketing, marketers can effectively connect and engage with potential consumers.  Online media plays an important role in direct marketing.  The most preferred online selling channel is Facebook, Shopee or Lazada, and Line.  According to the Thai Direct Selling Association (TDSA), Thailand’s direct sales contracted by one to two percent in 2021 due to the highest domestic household debt in 18 years and economic uncertainty, which caused consumers to focus on essential goods.  The TDSA forecasted 3-5 percent growth in 2023.    

With a sales volume of $ 1.4 billion and the number of individual direct sellers totaling 3.7 million, direct marketing is widely used to sell health care products, cosmetics, cleaning, household items, insurance (life and non-life), and electrical appliances.  Direct sellers must adjust their strategies as they face increasing competition from e-commerce and social media platforms. 

Major direct marketing companies from the United States include Amway, Nu Skin, Herbal Life, Unicity Marketing, and Sunrider International.  Despite the success of direct marketing in the Thai market, poor consumer protection laws and enforcement hinder growth potential in the market.  Many problems still need to be solved, such as poor product quality, loss during delivery, refund policies, and protection of intellectual property rights.

Direct marketing and mail-order sales benefit from the use of individual credit cards in Thailand.  Credit cards stretch the buying power of Thai consumers and facilitate retail sales through mail orders, social media platforms, and electronic commerce.  The leading credit card issuers in Thailand are Siam Commercial Bank, Kasikorn Bank, Krungthai Bank, and Bangkok Bank.  Most major department stores in Thailand conduct direct marketing via their social media platforms and mail-order campaigns through their networks of discount cardholders.  Installment plan sales of household goods and electrical appliances continue to gain popularity among consumers, especially in rural areas.

TV home shopping continues to be popular in Thailand.  More international home shopping operators, mainly from South Korea, have entered the Thai market as joint ventures with local retail operators.  However, product quality is a significant concern for most buyers.  Thai consumers tend to order products online for convenience and low prices.

Joint Ventures/Licensing

Joint ventures (JVs) and licensing agreements are essential market entry strategies for American exporters to Thailand.  In many cases, the only way to overcome costly freight charges, high tariffs, and competition from cheaper local goods is via local production.  Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code has a section on General Contracts, which broadly governs all contractual business relationships and transactions.  Depending on the nature of the contract, the Public Companies Act and Foreign Business Act include provisions about JV agreements that American firms should be aware before signing with any Thai business partners.  Note that any contract provision that is deemed to be contrary to public order or morality will be void.  JV partnerships with funding support, technology transfer, and training components are effective mechanisms to achieve success.

Many Thai firms actively seek U.S. JV partners that bring much needed capital, in addition to technical, marketing, and management skills to the business relationship.  Thai firms may bring valuable benefits such as local vendor and government contacts and established business relationships.  Several U.S. companies have entered strategic JV relationships with Thai partners in Indochina and China.

The Commercial Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok can aid American firms seeking potential JV in Thailand through business development services.

Express Delivery

In Thailand, airports are operated by various organizations such as the Airport of Thailand Public Company Limited (AOT), Department of Airports, Bangkok Airways, and Royal Thai Navy. The major airport facilities serve both domestic and international flights.  Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang International Airport, which are designated as the country’s main airport, served 119,821 flights, accommodated 11.7 million passengers, and facilitated 1.19 million tons of freight in FY 2022 (October 2021 – September 2022).

In FY 2022, the number of aircraft movements for freight at major international airports reached 137,497 flights with total passenger volume of 13 million passengers.  The total freight and postal parcel volume amounted to 1,198,652 tons.  These numbers are expected to increase as economic conditions continue to recover post-pandemic.

Table: Cost of Express Postal Service from Bangkok, Effective January 2,  2023

(Rates exclude special fee and fuel surcharge)

Table: Cost of Express Postal Service from Bangkok, Effective January 2,  2023

10kg Box

(41.5 x 34 x 27 cm)

Additional rate per kg above 10kg and up to 20kg

25kg Box

(56 x 44 x 35 cm)

Additional rate per kg above 25kg 

and up to 44kg

Brazil, Chile11,639332.5565718.7818,213520.3865718.78
China & Taiwan5,804165.832818.038,617246.202818.03
China (South), Hong Kong4,232120.922286.526,512186.062286.52
France, Germany, UK7,195205.582988.5210,183290.952988.52
South Africa6,885196.722838.099,719277.692838.09
USA, Canada, Mexico7,335209.583048.6910,382296.633048.69

(Exchange Rate: 1US$=35 Baht)

Due Diligence

American buyers and investors considering business ventures in Thailand should be cautious and conduct due diligence before entering into legal agreements.  Local companies may lack transparency in their accounting practices.  The Commercial Section at U.S. Embassy in Bangkok offers the International Company Profile (ICP), a due diligence service that provides basic background information on Thai firms. 

The report provides an in-depth or basic background check, including an overview of business operations, a list of key management personnel, customer references, business operating conditions, and financial statements.  U.S. companies can also obtain financial background on Thai firms registered with the Thai Ministry of Commerce.  More information on these services provided by the U.S. Commercial Service in Thailand is available on the International Trade Administration website U.S. Department of Commerce website under “Virtual Services”.

U.S. exporters and investors should hire professional service providers, such as accountants, lawyers, asset appraisers, and other experts to check the Thai firm’s bona fides.  Several leading American accounting and consulting companies with due diligence expertise are active in Thailand.

For Thai firms listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), quarterly and annual business data is available through the SET and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  The Department of Business Development at the Ministry of Commerce is a good source of information for non-listed companies or privately owned firms.