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Fashion retail enters the online era

Fashion retail enters the online era

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Soursdey Fashion Shop Manager Khun Keomoly examines clothing items at her shop on Phnom Penh’s Street 123. Photo by: Sunan Channarong

SOURSDEY Fashion occupies a small shopfront near the Russian Market. It looks similar to many of the small boutiques sprouting up across Phnom Penh, packed with  the latest in fashion aimed at young, trendy consumers.

But the shop’s business plan differs from that of many similar-looking retail outlets. Soursdey Fashion is part of a small but growing number of shops that sell their products almost exclusively online.

Soursdey Fashion Shop manager Khun Keomoly says widespread use of the internet has made online retailing a viable proposition in the past few months.

“We have modern technology, and people are beginn-ing to learn more about new technology,” she says.

“The number of people who shop online is increasing, as people have more knowledge and understanding.”

Although there were fewer than 200,000 internet subscribers among the 14 million Cambodians at the end of last year, according to Ministry of Posts and Telecommunicat-ions statistics, some retailers say online buying is quickly catching on in the Kingdom.

Most customers purchase  items displayed in picture albums on Soursdey Fashion’s Facebook page, and “friends” of the page can place orders by messaging the shop over the social network.

The shop then places an order with its suppliers in Hong Kong and China, and the new item arrives between a week and 10 days later.

Customers can either pick up the item at Soursdey’s shop, on Street 123, or have it delivered to their door. They  generally pay in cash.

Khun Keomoly says cust-omers can also order over the phone, or by chatting online to the shop’s staff, but Facebook messaging is the most popular method of ordering.

The shop averages four to five customers a day who purchase as many as 10 items at a time. When it opened, it sold to one or two customers who  bought one or two items each.

Soursdey is one of the largest of these shops springing up around Phnom Penh, boasting a separate dedicated website and storefront, as well as more than 5,000 “friends” of its Facebook shop.

A number of smaller retailers are also going online in Cambodia.

Huat Sok Eng, manager of the H & E Collection Fashion Shop, says she began runn-ing the business about five months ago after becoming   a devotee of ordering fashion items online.

“I used to shop online before I opened my business,” she says. “I think it’s conven-ient – that’s why I began running my own business.”

Even so, the young and trendy who are targeted by retailers express mixed opinions about online shopping.

Sok Samphorsphalyka, a media student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, says she likes to shop online when there’s no time to head to the stores.

“It’s quite convenient. I just stay in one place, and click on the items I want to order.”

But other members of her generation say they prefer the old-fashioned method of purchasing fashion.

Lim Leangkung, a student at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia, says he doesn’t trust items that are offered online.

“I don’t trust shopping online because I don’t think it’s  safe, and I want to buy something I can see with my own eyes,” Lim Leangkung says.

He worries that the quality of the products may be infer-ior to what was advertised.

H & E Collection’s Huat Sok Eng says it is true that sometimes the product is different from the advertisement, and this is a constant challenge for the business.

An online retailer’s credibility rests on making sure the product matches what was ordered, Soursdey’s Khun Keomoly says.

The shop also has problems with customers ordering from the website, but not coming in to pick up the items.

“Sometimes, customers  order items, but they don’t come to pick them up,” Khun Keomoly says, adding that her only recourse in this situation is Facebook messaging.

Her suppliers also require constant payments, given the low volumes of items each provides, she says.

“Running an online shop is not an easy job. It’s easy to come under pressure from the customers, the bank and the suppliers.”

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