When I first moved to Bangkok, Thailand I rarely shopped at Robinson Department stores. An older department store chain, compared to the glitzy, brand-new departments stores like Siam Paragon and Central, Robinson seemed old-fashioned and ‘past it’. But, lately, as I’ve shopped more often at Robinson, and Robinson itself has become more modern, I have a new appreciation for the department store chain that’s lasted more than 30 years in Bangkok’s rapidly-changing retail world. In fact, in recent years, Robinson has not only survived but thrived and there are many good reasons for it.
Where are Robinson Department Stores Located? – With 32 years in business, Robinson has had time to expand all over Bangkok and out into the rest of Thailand. Originally a company from the Philippines, Robinson was bought out by Bangkok’s massive Central Group in 1995, so the company is now Thai-owned. One of their main branches is still in a prime location in the trendy Silom area of town, but with eight more branches all over Bangkok and 12 others around Thailand, you’re sure to find one close to you.
What Does Robinson Sell? – A typical department store like ones you’ll see all over the world, every Robinson store has several floors of departments selling everything from clothing to shoes, household items to sporting goods, toys, school supplies, make-up, books, jewelry, photograph frames, car accessories, electronics and more.
Most Robinson stores also have a Tops supermarket somewhere on their premises, usually in the basement. Tops supermarket is actually my only gripe with Robinson, as they are often higher priced than many other supermarkets in Bangkok and their produce is expensive and not always fresh. As I buy vegetables almost daily, I rarely shop at Tops simply as they don’t stock what I need. They are however convenient if you’re already shopping at a Robinson department store, and just need to grab a couple of quick food items. They also have a nice selection of imported British items.
What are the Best Deals at Robinson? – When I arrived in Bangkok ten years ago, Robinson’s clothing departments seemed old-fashioned to me, so I rarely shopped there. In recent years Robinson has hired new buyers and gone with a complete change in fashion styles, moving away from the stereotypical Bangkok matron look to one that’s more trendy and modern. They are however still a great place to buy larger bras, if you’re not like the typical flat-chested Thai girl.
For younger fashion icons (teens and early twenties), Robinson has a wonderful teens and young adult clothing area, selling some of the most interesting fashions from Thailand, Japan and other countries around Asia. For women in their 30s, 40s and 50s too, Robinson’s clothing departments are fresh and stylish, yet with prices far more reasonable than many other department stores in Bangkok.
For men too, Robinson’s men’s department carries everything from extremely fashionable men’s wear for the just-bought-my-first-pair-of-long-pants brigade, to styles for the professional man in his 30s, 40s and beyond.
Robinson also runs sales often, with deals as good as 50% off. I make a point of popping into my closest Robinson store on a weekly basis, just to check out the latest sale items as, they’re so popular they sell out quickly. When I was teaching corporate English too, I’d often ask my students where they bought a cute new outfit, only to be told “Robinson” and “very cheap”.
Robinson’s household department is also wonderful, selling cookware, cutlery, storage boxes, bowls, dinner services, vases, glassware, pottery, towels, sheets – just about anything you need for your home. Again, sales and special promotions are constant and, if you check back often, you may find you can get as cheap items in a Robinson sale as you can at Chatuchak Weekend Market and the quality is sometimes better.
Robinson department stores have a large sporting goods department, Super Sports, with good prices on everything from workout clothing to free weights and treadmills. When I was comparison shopping for an exercise bike, Robinson was comparable to most discount places I checked and cheaper with a couple of brands.
Oddly, prices vary at different Robinson branches, with some branches running sales not offered at other branches and some pricing the same items cheaper than Robinson branches in more upscale parts of the city. My recommendation is to do a comparison shop then stick to the branch that’s cheaper.
Robinson Food Court – Most Robinson’s also have an excellent food court, usually somewhere near the Tops supermarket, where you can buy cheap (and delicious!) Thai food to either eat there or take home. Dishes vary from curries and Pad Thai to noodles, stir-fried vegetables and Thai junk food and desserts. Prices begin at 30-35 baht per dish (just over $1) so they’re a wonderful place to enjoy a low-cost meal while out on a long day of shopping.
Robinson Store Card – If you plan on shopping often at Robinson, don’t forget to apply for the store card too. Called ‘The 1 Card’, it’s usable not only at Robinson but also at Central department stores and other stores in the Central Group family.
They also have a ‘The 1 Card’ for expatriates and international visitors. What always makes me laugh though, is in typical Thai-fashion, all the information about this card on the Robinson website is written in Thai, a language probably less than 1% of expatriates and international visitors can speak, let alone read.