7/7 Mini Store Stands Empty

The 7/7 Mini Store has shut its doors, and an inspection through its tinted windows re­veals its goods have been cleaned out.

Two months ago, then-manager Albert Kang scaled down the store from a 5,000-item supermarket to a 2,500-item convenience store in an attempt to stave off financial ruin. Then, Kang said the store couldn’t compete with better-stocked rivals.

Among other things, Kang said the grocery store experienced difficulties stocking its exported goods before their expiration dates. He regretted the store’s failed attempt at attracting Amer­icans, which had backfired and driven away Euro­pean customers. Kang also accused competitors of smuggling and engaging in “crossborder trading” to avoid taxes.

Neither Kang nor any other member of 7/7 management could be reached for comment last week, but the store’s former landlord suggested 7/7 was also particularly hard-hit by the economic downturn affecting businesses since the July 1997 civil unrest.

According to the landlord, who declined to be named, 7/7 had not been able to pay its rent for “the last few months.”

He did not know when, if ever, the store would reopen and has put a “For Rent/Sale” sign on the store’s gate. Neighbors said last week the store has been empty for a couple of weeks.

Around Phnom Penh, managers of other grocery stores catering to foreigners speak of varying levels of struggle to stay afloat. But all said business has been down for more than a year.

An employee of Lucky Market said sales were stable, but slow compared with last year. Another employee working at Tokyo International Store said his store’s Japanese customers “disappeared” and have not returned.

Chheang Meng, the manager of Bayon Market, estimated he has 30 percent fewer customers than last year, and that they are buying fewer items.

“Our business depends on foreigners,” he said.

“Now it’s still quiet, because the foreigners went out [of the country].”


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