It was a dream-come-true for Chhan Ny to have her own women’s apparel shop at the city’s newest shopping center, O’Russei Market. But she has failed to draw as many customers as she did at her shop at Phsar Thmei, where she rented a stall to save money to obtain a lease at O’Russei.
“My business here has been very slow,” sighed the 29-year-old vendor who opened her shop on the third floor two months ago. Modern, fashionable clothes displayed on the wall have been hung there for weeks, awaiting young women who have yet to come.
This time of the year—with the Water Festival, holidays and weddings—is usually the best season to sell clothes because people want to dress up, she said, sitting in her empty booth. “But I now sell as few as one shirt or skirt per day. It’s really bad.”
She is one of hundreds of vendors who are facing a drop in business at the newly opened city market. Like other vendors, she blamed the unattractive design of the building, poor facilities and bad management of the shopping center for her slow business.
“Look around this floor. It’s empty. It’s not attractive at all,” Chhan Ny said.
The new O’Russei opened in early August as part of an overall plan to upgrade the eight major shopping centers in the city. Phnom Penh municipality invested $11 million to rebuild the largest city market.
All 6,000 stalls in the three-story building have been leased out for small businesses at prices of between $1,900 and $3,300 for a 20-year lease. But now signs saying “for sale or rent” on the shutters of empty booths catch shoppers’ eyes, especially on the second and third floors.
Vong Somaly bought a lease on a third floor shop, but didn’t even bother to open because there were so few shoppers coming to the top of the market. Now she rents a shop from someone on the first floor while she tries to find a tenant for her third-floor stall.
“More people come down to find new locations to do business as the top floor becomes more quiet day by day,” Vong Somaly said.
Keang Lak, market’s manager, said about 10 percent of vendors who bought a 20-year lease have not opened their shops. And many vendors on the top floor have moved their shops to the first floor to do better business, he added.
“This is because the parking lots planned on the roof top are not done yet,” he said. “If it is done, more vendors fill up the floor and more shoppers come visit.”
But many vendors say the problem with the market is not only the parking lot.
A cosmetic shop owner, who refused to identify herself, said customers cannot easily locate stalls where they want to shop because all different kinds of shops are now mixed up on the same floor, instead of being organized in designated areas in a systematic way.
Other vendors noted that the facilities are not friendly either for vendors or for shoppers.
The market has seen blackouts many times—at least once a day—even though each vendor is required to pay higher fees for electricity than those charged in other local markets. Water often leaks out of water pipes that run through the building. Vendors also say the air is not circulating well because of a lack of windows and low ceilings with closely packed booths.
“The environment of the facility is very important for our businesses when you think of the 20-year lease,” said a jeans shop owner who identified herself as Khim. She urged the city to renovate the facility to improve its environment.
“If the city will not improve it, we will organize a protest,” Khim said.
She said many business have already paid high prices to lease their stalls and it would not be easy for them to pack and go from the market. “Many shops will die if this situation lasts.”