A licensee has started selling imported authentic Levi’s jeans in Phnom Penh, competing against the range of jeans bearing the brand name in nearby markets.
Levi’s clothing went on sale at the start of the month in a corner of the Lucky Department Store near Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium.
Kevin Corning, general manager of fashion apparel division at DKSH, which has the rights to manufacture Levi’s products in Thailand to sell in Cambodia, said the company was waiting to see how the brand fared in a market that was used to counterfeit goods.
Mr Corning said the group would communicate what it means to buy a branded product. “Why on earth would I go to a store and spend more than I have to spend on the street? Because there is always a consumer that wants the real thing,” he said.
Levi Strauss & Co manufacture jeans in Cambodian factories, but DKSH does not have access to these products, so will pay an import duty of up to 35 percent to import clothing from Thailand.
The first store will assess the demand for products costing between $50 and $100 before deciding how many more stores to open and how quickly, Mr Corning said, adding that jean lines would be on sale for between $48 and $106.
Chariya Preap, Levi’s Manager at DKSH in Cambodia, said the company aimed to differentiate its products and service from Levi’s jeans acquired on the black market.
“These other markets…bring in basically damaged goods from the factories that are either stolen or leaked out somehow, and then also clothes that are actually sewn wrong,” Ms Preap said.
Matthew Rendall, a partner at the legal consultancy Sciaroni & Associates, said that DKSH’s move to bring authentic Levi’s to Cambodia was part of the recent trend of international brand names to open clothing outlets in Phnom Penh.
“There is a burgeoning Cambodian middle class, so you now get Cambodians who can spend that amount of money on clothes,” Mr Rendall said, noting that local businesspeople were approaching companies for franchise rights. “[Brand names] are being pulled in rather than brands coming here.”
Mr Rendall said that DKSH would need to compete with the same product given that Levi’s jeans can already be found at local markets for cheaper prices. “They are not even just fakes, but the real thing,” he said, of the jeans already on sale in local markets.
Sophea Sam, 28, selling jeans with the Levi’s logo costing $11 at Phsar Tuol Tom Poung yesterday, said most of the jeans labeled as Levi’s on sale there were either fakes or originals manufactured in Cambodian factories, but rejected for export.
When asked whether a shop selling authentic Levi’s jeans would be successful, Ms Sam said: “I don’t think they are going to open because here people are not rich enough to pay for Levi’s.”
However, if the jeans were guaranteed to be Levi’s quality then wealthier Cambodians may buy these, she added.
(Additional reporting by Hour Ratha)