August 5, 2011

Market makeover boosts business


Jewellery vendor in Phnom Penh's Central Market
RECENT renovations to the capital’s Central Market may have received architectural plaudits, but what of their effect on business? Has the new look brought increased success for the hundreds of traders who depend upon it for their livelihood?

Nhem Sydara, 43, has sold noodle soup at his stall on the western side of the market since 1989. For him, the renovation works have had a positive impact on trade.

“If we compare it with the old stall, it’s up by 50 per cent,” Nhem Sydara says. Working from 6.30am to 11.30am, he has as many as 80 customers on a good day.

And it’s not just custom that has improved. “The hygiene is very good,” Nhem Sydara says. “Before, it was dark. Now it is light.”

Khut Sina, 27, agrees.

“They used to throw rubbish on the floor, and it looked dirty,” she says.

“Before, I wouldn’t allow my son to run around here because it was dirty. Now I do.”

Khut Sina has just had breakfast with her young son at one of the row of food stalls on the western side of the market.

The market trader makes the trip to the Central Market once a week.

“I don’t come here often, because my home is far away,” she says. “I’ve come to buy products to sell near the airport.”

Like Nhem Sydara, Khut Sina is a big fan of the changes.

“It looks good. Before, it was never like this,” she says. “Also, the food is more delicious than before, and it’s the same price.”

Inside the market’s central dome, Mouy Rung, 44, joins the consensus of those who back the improvements.

“It looks better,” she says unreservedly. “And it’s more comfortable to work here.”

Mouy Rung has been selling jade and jewellery at the Central Market for 10 years.

Her only complaint concerns the disruption to trade during the renovations that forced her to temporarily relocate just outside the market.

“We lost some customers because they could not find us,” Mouy Rung  says, adding that she did not receive any compensation for the loss of business during this period.

Like Nhem Sydara, Mouy Rung says business has picked up.

“Now more tourists come here, especially Vietnamese,” she says.

Despite this, most of Mouy Rung’s customers are Chinese people who come for her jade.

“Chinese people believe that when they wear jade, they have greater luck,” she says.

The renovations to the Central Market certainly seem to have brought an upturn in luck for its traders.

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