After more than $205 million spent, 18 months of construction and a one-week soft-opening period, Aeon Mall's offical opening is finally here – and the crowds are flocking to the the capital’s newest shopping complex.
Officially opened yesterday by Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, analysts are touting Aeon Mall’s arrival as a new era for Cambodia’s retail and consumer environment.
Hiroshi Suzuki, president and chief economist at Business Research Institute of Cambodia (BRIC) said in addition to placing added pressure on other shopping malls, such as Sorya and Sovanna, the Japanese-owned mall and its 186 tenants could spell the end for the country’s bartering habits.
“Cambodia’s well-known negotiation system in local markets could be impacted seriously in the coming years. Many Asian countries including Japan had such an experience and now don’t see any negotiation in its retail market.”
The 68,000-square-metre Aeon Mall, located on Sothearos Boulevard, is now the largest shopping centre in Cambodia, with international tenants including American jeans maker Levi Strauss, British shoe brand Clarks and European labels L’occitaine, Valentino and Pierre Cardin all vying for sales.
According to Laszlo Fulop, senior retail consultant for CB Richard Ellis (Cambodia), the influx of foreign, well-known retailers could test the value of local products.
“As opposed to unofficial retailers in other malls where the origin of the goods is dubious, customers will have more confidence to purchase in the official stores verified by Aeon,” he said, adding that an official analysis of Aeon’s impact on the local retail market is still six months away.
“Local operators have to take action to successfully compete with the international developers in the future,” Fulop said.
With notably fewer shoppers than usual scouting Sorya Shopping Mall’s eight floors of shops since Aeon tentatively opened on June 20, business owners are becoming nervous.
“The number of customers has decreased sharply,” Lim Bunseang, owner of clothing store named Standard at Sorya told the Post.
“We know that most of them go there, to Aeon Mall,” she said, citing a 50 per cent slump in shopper numbers.
Chea Sokheak, general manager at Sorya Shopping Mall, welcomed the Japanese mall developer to the capital, but said their opening will almost certainly impact Phnom Penh’s existing retail market.
“When new competitors come, there will surely be pressure on existing businesses,” she said, adding that on average, about 10,000 people shop at Sorya on weekdays and up to 20,000 on the weekends.
According to Aeon’s managing director, Shinobu Washizawa, the new mall attracted more than 100,000 people on Sunday alone.
“Sales of clothes and home decorating items at Aeon Mall sold very well, 50 per cent higher than what we had hoped for,” she said.
Long Sitha, 31, was one of the thousands who braved Sunday’s crazed scenes, which saw cars, tuk-tuks and motorbikes waiting up to an hour just to enter the car park.
And while many products fall within her price range, Sitha said the vast majority of adult clothing, electronics, shoes and even restaurants and cafes are too expensive.
“I just had a look at the price of some shirts at the retail brand shops and it is very different to what I am able to afford, so I left the shop immediately,” she said.
“I am looking for cheaper products than this,” she said bluntly.