Making the hard sell to Cambodia's soft targets

Making the hard sell to Cambodia's soft targets

Stores and shopping centres in the capital are increasingly targeting children with specialty stores for toys and clothes as well as child-oriented marketing

We can get good advice about baby products, as well as how to raise our children.

Photo by: NOU VASSAN
Srey Leao feeds her young daughter fast food at Phnom Penh's Sydney Shopping Center.

SINCE the year 2000, Phnom Penh's newest potential customers have been tempting marketeers.

The children of the new urban middle-class – the nouveau riche – have spurred the growth of businesses specialising in baby products, toys and children’s clothes.

Shopping centres, fast food restaurants and supermarkets are also trying to add some fun to the shopping experience, in order to hook both young customers and their rich parents.

Often colourful and decorated with cartoons, the new children’s stores stock all manner of products and are easily identifiable – almost all of their names are prefixed by baby, kid, toy or suchlike.

These vivid emporiums are usually found along the main boulevards of the city centre and cater mainly to middle-class and expatriate families.

“That’s why I import these products: to make such customers’ lives more convenient,” he says.

“It was very difficult to find a local baby shop that stocked a sufficient range. If customerss were looking for a gift for a friend’s baby, they had to try many different places before they found a suitable present.”

Of course, items for children have always been available in Phnom Penh’s markets, but they are now beginning to focus more on quality, says Bu Chanpiru.

“Rich people don’t really care about the price – but they do care about the brand name and quality of the products,” he says, before proudly adding that most of his shop’s products are made in Denmark and Germany, with recognisable brand names like NUK and Lego.

However, Sok Piseth, owner of a toy shop named Toys and Me on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard, had a different reason for getting into the business.
After noticing a local deficit of educational toys, he consulted a relative who is also a kindergarten director before seeking to fill that gap in the market.

On the other hand, Sun Sodeth, operations manager for Jolly Baby Kids on Street 128, which imports KIKO-branded garments from Malaysia, feels children’s clothing is more important for parents.

“The two priorities for parents are obviously food and education, but their children’s appearance is becoming an increasingly important point,” she says.

“People cannot find certain products in the traditional shopping areas like Psar Orussei.”

The children’s market is still in its infancy, with most stores opening in the past few years.

Yet it is an undoubted growth area, with ever more shops springing up.

Bu Chanpiru claims that, although Kid World originally decided to target expatriates, increasing numbers of Cambodians are browsing his shop’s wares:

“I have been doing okay so far because Cambodian customers are beginning to understand about quality products,” he says.
“In fact, I’ve recently expanded my business into a wholesaler, as the demand is increasing all the time,” he continues.

But what of the consumer? Van Rattana, mother of a 5-year-old son and newborn daughter, often visits specialist children’s shops.

“Contrary to what you might expect, the prices are very competitive; sometimes it’s a bit cheaper than in the markets.

“Moreover, we can get good advice about baby products, as well as how to raise our children. The staff in the baby shops are so friendly,” she says.

However, Van Rattana adds that Cambodians also like coming to such places because they can easily park their flashy cars; it’s another way way of showing off their improved affluence – while they are conspicuously consuming.

From shops as status symbols to shopping centres and fast food restaurants as playgrounds, the capitalist trend has certainly caught on.

Some of the bigger retailers in the Kingdom, such as Sydney Shopping Center, the Lucky Burger fast-food chain and one of the four BB World outlets are introducing toys, games and playgrounds to make themselves more child-friendly.

BB World, as well as other fast-food restaurants, has taken to running special promotions for kids, in the time-honoured tradition pioneered by global powerhouses such as McDonald’s.

Celebrating birthday parties at a junk-food superstore and giving toys away to children with meal deals has long been a tactic in the West. Now Cambodia is following suit.

“It is a marketing strategy – and a way to add some fun for the kids,” says Khieu Channa, marketing manager for BB World.

“If children come and enjoy themselves, we are sure they will ask their parents to return. And when they do, they will surely eat at the restaurant in addition to their kids.”