Chanting campaign slogans and political messages, tens of thousands of Cambodians buzzed through city and provincial streets in July showing support for their chosen party. Almost all of them were wearing T-shirts, caps or stickers with party logos – a windfall for print shops in town that took the orders.
Now, however, the campaigns are over, leaving behind piles of unsold merchandise. No problem, sellers say, there's always 2018.
“We will sell them the next election,” said Vath Neari Roath, pointing at the mound of folded campaign shirts sitting in the corner of her Piseth T-Shirt Printing and Computerised Embroidery shop on Norodom Boulevard.
Merchandise at the store was mostly made to order. But Roath, who started the shop about 10 years ago with her sister, said they printed an additional 5,000 T-shirts bearing the ruling Cambodian People's Party devada logo in anticipation of high demand during the last few days of the campaign.
The CPP shirts and caps, priced at about $2 each, will be in storage with about 100 banners.
Since the election on Sunday, in which the opposition Cambodia National Rescue party nearly doubled the number of its National Assembly seats, no one has ordered or bought any campaign merchandise, said Roath, and business in general has quietened down.
Print shops like Piseth experienced a surge in business during campaign rallies, which often slowed traffic in the area around the Independence Monument.
Roath sold thousands of T-shirts and caps bearing the CPP logo during the month leading up to the election.
Like most of the shops selling merchandise, opposition items were hard to find, and Roath, who slapped a CPP sticker next to the entrance, provided them only on request. As a result, about 1,000 CNRP caps were sold.
While opposition labels were limited at Piseth, CNRP supporters could move down the street to Angkortip Printing and Embroidery, where the owners seemed to have more of a market-driven attitude toward sales.
“We sell both CPP and CNRP because to us, it’s just business,” said Khin Samphors, whose brother owns the print shop.
Angkortip’s batch of leftover CPP and CNRP T-shirts, banners and caps is much smaller than Piseth’s, and will also collect dust until 2018.
No merchandise had been sold since the elections, Khin said. But the store moved more than 1,000 T-shirts, hats and banners in July.
Owners of the nearby Nitarya Printing and 5 Star Printing House said they are holding out and still trying to sell leftover merchandise before restocking.
Print stores weren't willing to introduce discounts to unload the dated gear, apparently willing to stow it away for five years instead of lose out on the investment. Unless, owners said, customers want to buy in bulk.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RANN REUY