Supermarket Takes Fresh Approach to Christmas

As artificial trees and glittery Christmas trinkets line Phnom Penh’s shop windows, the holiday spirit—and consumerism—is very much alive in the capital this week. But the country’s biggest supermarket rolled out a new product this year: real Christmas trees.

Claiming to be the first supermarket in Cambodia to sell genuine fir trees, Lucky Supermarket started off small, importing 10 trees from the U.S. earlier this month to sell in its two stores on Sihanouk Boulevard and in Tuol Kok district.

A shopper walks toward a pair of Christmas trees for sale at Lucky Supermarket on Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A shopper walks toward a pair of Christmas trees for sale at Lucky Supermarket on Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The trees, priced at $68 and standing just over a meter tall, come from Oregon, according to a tag tied to the trunks reading Oregon Evergreen International.

Unable to give the exact origin of the firs, Sathia Bandith, category manager at Lucky Supermarket, said the trees are aimed at a discerning market.

“We want our customers to see and feel a real tree so we can differentiate ourselves from other retailers. We don’t want to sell the same artificial trees because we are not a stationery shop,” Mr. Bandith said.

“We are targeting expats who are living here and who are from high-income families who can afford them,” he said.

But so far, selling the trees has proven somewhat tricky. Mr. Bandith said the company has sold five so far.

“I’m not too sure if they don’t know about where to buy real trees or there is not much demand because this is the first time we are trying this,” he said.

While the real tree market remains a notably small niche, diminutive and grand synthetic trees can be found in malls and shops throughout the city.

Heng Sothy, Aeon Mall’s assistant manager of sales and marketing, could not estimate exactly how many trees the mall and stores have on sale, but said Aeon has been encouraging its tenants to embrace the festive spirit.

“We suggested to all the shops to have decorations because…it makes the mall fun and entertaining,” Mr. Sothy said.

“I don’t think many businesses have real Christmas trees because they don’t know where to get them,” he added.

Sok Sara, general manager of the International Book Center, said year-on-year sales of fake Christmas trees remained steady at about 200 units this year, with the stock imported from China and sold largely to local businesses.

“The real trees are difficult to maintain and I wouldn’t even know where we can import them from,” he said.

“Maybe Europe, but that’s so far.”

styllis@cambodiadaily.com, sothear@cambodiadaily.com

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