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NagaCity Walk gives capital a taste of duty-free shopping

Employees unload duty-free goods yesterday during the soft opening of NagaCity Walk in Phnom Penh. The $94 million investment is slated for an early 2017 grand opening.
Employees unload duty-free goods yesterday during the soft opening of NagaCity Walk in Phnom Penh. The $94 million investment is slated for an early 2017 grand opening. Athena Zelandonii

NagaCity Walk gives capital a taste of duty-free shopping

The NagaCity Walk, a $94 million subterranean shopping centre in Phnom Penh aimed at high-rolling tourists visiting the adjacent NagaWorld casino and hotel complex, held its soft opening yesterday, with duty-free luxury goods ranging from affordable tobacco, perfumes and designer watches to a $3,400 bottle of cognac.

China Duty Free Group (CDFG), a Chinese state-owned enterprise that already operates duty-free stores in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, has leased nearly the entire 4,000 square metres of the mall’s dedicated retail space from NagaWorld.

The retail area was only 50 per cent complete when the mall opened yesterday. Construction was continuing on the other half, while in the opened section employees were busy putting the final touches on glass display cases and stocking the shelves as construction workers scraped the lingering debris from the floors and tucked ladders out of sight.

By 10:30am, the escalators that run up to the casino floor were turned on and a small flow of shoppers began looking at the tax-free goods.

John Zhao, CDFG general manager for Cambodia, said the luxury goods on display would cater to both Chinese and international tourists visiting Phnom Penh, while the connection to the Kingdom’s largest mixed-entertainment complex gives the mall easy access and high visibility.

“The mall will attract international shoppers both from NagaWorld and the other five-star hotels in Phnom Penh, and not just Chinese tourists,” he said. “And it is located in the city’s central business district, which has huge growth potential.

“This is the right time for us to open,” he said, adding that to keep up with Cambodia’s economic growth, the country needs to bring in the biggest brands.

Zhao said he expects work on the mall to be completed by the end of the year and a grand opening to be held in early 2017 at the latest. While he declined to provide details on the lease agreement between NagaWorld and CDFG, or the state-owned Chinese company’s investment capital, he said the shopping experience would raise Cambodia to international standards – with a cheaper price tag.

“Our products are normally cheaper than what you can find [outside the duty-free mall],” he said, adding that prices were based on the regional market.

A 750 millilitre bottle of Hennessey Richard, a top-shelf Cognac, was priced at $3,400, while a 1.75 millilitre bottle of Grey Goose Vodka was listed at a more earthly $68. Necklaces and jewellery in the Swarovski store, a high-end Austrian producer of crystal, listed its most expensive necklace at just under $600, while the neighbouring store for the Swiss watch maker Tissot was similarly priced.

A marketing executive for CDFG, who declined to give his name as he is not allowed to speak to the press, said that both international tourists and long-term expats can shop at the mall, while Cambodians are restricted to window-shopping.

“International travellers and expats need to present passports to buy goods and enjoy other promotions,” he said. “Cambodians can visit the stores but are not allowed to purchase items.”

The mall guarantees the quality of the products and that they can be taken home tax free, he added.

NagaCity Walk’s strategy is part of broader expansions to NagaWorld that will include the unveiling of the massive $369 million Naga 2 development, slated for 2017. The new multiuse entertainment complex will hold approximately 1,000 hotel rooms with an additional space of 300 gaming tables and 500 electronic gaming machines (EGMs).

NagaWorld houses 700 rooms with over 296 gaming tables and 1,662 EGMs as of June 30, according to its latest financial statement.Michael Ting, a Hong Kong-based gaming research analyst for CIMB Securities, said NagaWorld previously lacked any significant retail space to attract non-gamers. Its newly opened NagaCity Walk should encourage more tourists to visit the entertainment complex.

“[This] gives players something else to do as a break when they are not at the tables,” he said, noting that it was also a positive sign for the Kingdom’s hospitality industry.

Zhao said the completed mall would eventually be divided into two areas – allowing both Cambodians and foreign tourists to shop. One side will be dedicated to duty-free products, while the rest will sell goods produced in Cambodia.

“This will help local products and will support their marketing,” he said, adding that a non-duty free section would bring in additional clientele.

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