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New bikes rev up local success

121002_08
Motorbikes are displayed at Keom Chhay shop near the Olympic market in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Seng Dara/Phnom Penh Post

At first view, Kim Chhay’s motorbike shop is just one among many on Street 163. But in contrast to his many competitors in the area, the 40-year-old also offers new bikes to his customers.

A solely second-hand dealer until last year, Chhay started to offer new bikes with the opening of his new shop six months ago.

Now, 70 per cent of the sales are new bikes and he hired his first non-relative employee to be a repairman.

Chhay sells about 50 bikes per month, half of them being his flagship product, the Honda Dream, which he sells new for $1,800.

For Chhay, the success on this shop, right next to the Olympic Stadium at Sangkat Veal Vong, is a clear indicator of Cambodians’ increasing preference for new bikes over second-hand ones.

Chhay opened his first motorbike shop in 1999.

“It’s simple,” he said. “Bikes are a product that everyone needs, so people will come.”

Chhay sold about 500 bikes last year and expects to sell 600 this year.

The bikes mostly come from Vietnam and Thailand. Hea Heng, Kim Chhay’s nephew, said the difference between bikes from both countries is clear. Vietnamese bikes are cheaper, but the Thai ones are of superior quality, having “a better engine”, Heng said.

As business kept growing, Chhay started bringing dirt bikes such as the Yamaha 2X. These bikes come all the way from India and can cost about $3,500, but Heng said there is less demand.

“We just usually sell two or three in the entire month. Right now we don’t have any because we only bring new ones every two months,” he said.

The best days in terms of sales are Mondays and Tuesdays when customers heavily visit the shop, and four or five bikes are sold per day. After that, weekdays are not so profitable, Hea Heng said. It is not uncommon only sell one or no motorbikes at all on weekdays, he said. However, each month there is at least one “lucky” day where eight to nine bikes are sold, Heng said.

Other vendors in the Olympic Market area are not oblivious to Chhay’s success. Hy Hean says the market is changing.

“If the customers are really interested in a bike they go to the new shop,” said Hy Hean. “We get the people who cannot choose.”

A former soldier who decided to establish a bike shop after staying in Vietnam and learning the trade there, Hean acknowledges that selling second-hand bikes is not the lucrative business it was before.

“At the end, we still have enough to eat. That’s all that matters,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: jyepes@gmail.com

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