NGO craft shops in Phnom Penh are seeing higher sales this month because of the Christmas season, although revenues are still nowhere near pre-July 1997 levels. Khemara Handicrafts at 18
St 302 sells $1,000 worth of goods most months but expects to sell $3,000 worth of products this month, according to Veary Hul, the organization’s accountant.
Still, sales are far short of pre-July 1997 Christmases, when sales would jump to over $10,000 in December. “It’s the political situation in Cambodia,” she said.
Wat Than Handicrafts on Norodom Boulevard also has made more money this month but will be putting its many unsold Christmas ornaments in storage for next year.
“This year we didn’t make a lot of money from Christmas but before we made a lot. We sold much more than we could produce,” said Hay Kim That, the workshop coordinator. “After the fighting of the 5th and 6th of July, , we couldn’t.”
His workshop and the one run by the National Center of Disabled Persons have, however, noticed a return of orders from large NGOs and corporations for customized cards and datebooks. According to Hay Kim That, Wat Than made 1,000 cards for the mobile telephone company MobiTel.
The NCDP made 1,000 custom cards for the local office of the multinational oil corporation Shell. The organization also had significantly larger orders for custom datebooks, said Yi Veasna, NCDP executive director.
Tabitha at 26 St 294 has seen its sales stabilize in comparison to previous Christmas seasons rather than decline because it is relying more on export sales. Last December the organization sold more than $30,000 worth of products domestically and internationally and expects to sell that amount again this year, according to Janne Ritskes, director of the organization.
Local sales used to make up 50 percent of Tabitha’s business but are now only 30 percent.
The factional fighting of July 1997 cut domestic sales in half, Ritskes said.
“I’ve worked in countries like this before,” she said. “You don’t count on the local expat community. They leave too easily.”