Chinese New Year Vendors Face Stiff Competition

The buyers came, the pork prices went up and then everyone went home—or, to the beach.

Such was the start of the Chi­nese New Year in Phnom Penh.

In the few days leading up to Chinese New Year, sellers of traditional red paper lanterns and other Year of the Rat-themed decorations at various markets and stores around the city said there were more customers than ever, but that they weren’t necessarily making more money.

Hong Thavy, 42, leaned against a lamppost across the street from Phsar Thmei on Monday next to her motorbike, on top of which was bal­anced a pile of red and gold lanterns.

She said it was difficult to compete with so many vendors selling the same thing.

“Last year, we sold between 20 and 30 in one day, this year we sell between 10 and 15…. There are too many shops,” she said.

Chuon Chamroen, 20, whose stationery shop at Phsar O’Russei was brimming with decorations Wednesday morning, said the overabundance of stores has counteracted the increase in customers.

Other vendors complained that the cost of importing their goods has gone up and was limiting the profit they could make on any one sale.

Suk Palanet, 38, whose flower shop at Phsar Thmei was awash with orange trees for the new year, said Monday that the cost of im­porting the trees from Vietnam is noticeably higher this year.

“Last year I sold less, but made more money,” she said, adding that last year she made a $1 or $2 profit on a small, $5 tree, but that this year she is only able to keep $0.50.

On Street 182 near the corner of Street 105, 20-year-old Vouch Khim said that it now costs more to im­port decorations from Taiwan and China. As a result, a large paper lantern set that sold for about $6.50 last year now costs $12.

“It isn’t just the customers that complain about the price, but the sellers too,” she said Wednesday morning, her storefront abuzz with last minute shoppers.

Khon Sothearoth, the 26-year-old brother of Russei Keo district governor Khlaing Huot, noted Mon­day that new year’s decorations were pricey this year.

“This branch costs $12. Last year it was about $7. Now, it’s almost double,” he said, carrying a tall, thin branch of tiny yellow flowers toward his Lexus parked outside Phsar Thmei.

Keang Lak, chief of Phsar O’Russei, said high demand for grilled pork drove prices up on

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