City’s Latest, Largest Mall Open for Business

The smell of paint, glue and sawdust are still fresh at Sovanna Shopping Center, Cambodia’s newest and largest shopping mall, which opened its doors last month in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district.

Standing five floors and spanning about 50,000 square meters, Sovanna, located a short walk from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, is 20 percent larger than Cana­dia Group’s first mall, the Shopping Center Sorya, which opened in December 2002, according to mall officials.

Sovanna, surrounded by new apart­ment buildings and neatly paved and planned streets, stands out with its large pillars and a water fountain at its entrance. Inside, some natural light filters down from the shopping center’s high roof through several floors of balconies.

Self-contained shopping in an air-conditioned environment with more space to walk and better security are all attractions that the mall has over traditional-style markets, Sovanna mall Assistant Gen­eral Manager Thap Rethy said Wednesday.

“People have more money and they like to spend, so they come here,” Thap Rethy said.

“They come for the experience,” he said. “Some don’t even come to shop. They come by just to visit.”

So far, the mall has opened 187shops and stores out of a total of 300 retail units available, Thap Rethy said.

Though the leader in mall development in Phnom Penh, Canadia Group will soon have strong competition from Kith Meng’s Royal Group.

“Now people are more used to shopping in malls, so it will be much better for us even though we are late entrants,” said Debasish Pattnaik, director of business development, project and investment for the Royal Group, which plans to build MK Mall.

MK Mall, derived from the initials of the company’s president, Kith Meng, is scheduled to open in 2010 or 2011 on Street 63, less than 100 meters from Sorya, and will include apartments and hotels, Pattnaik said.

Paul Guymon, general manager of the firm Indochina Research, said malls in Cambodia are transforming from a curiosity to a necessity for shoppers.

“If we look at the other trends in the region there would not be a development like this if there were not a demand for it,” he said.

At Sovanna mall Wednesday, Try Sopheap said his family has expanded its electronics business from Phsar Olympic to Sorya shopping center. On Saturday, they opened three more electronics shops in Sovanna, Try Sopheap said, adding that malls are the future source of his family’s business success.

“If you look at the size and the design, it stands out to customers,” he said of the new shopping mall.

Still, he said, his family had no plans to close its Phsar Olympic location.

   (Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)

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