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New Siem Reap Night Market shut down

By: Diana Saw Posted: January-25-2010 in
Diana Saw

I just got back to Siem Reap on Thursday. While in Phnom Penh I heard news that the new Siem Reap Night Market was shut down. We have 2 stalls there. At first, we were told the market would be shut for just three days and the explanation given was an important person from Phnom Penh was visiting and they did not want that person to know about the market.

Of course, that turned out to be false. The reality is the market never did get official permission to operate.

I had heard about the market only because I help Douk, the handicapped bookseller. The booksellers know everything that goes around town because they move around the town everyday peddling their books. There were no ads about the new night market, and word spread by mouth. As a foreigner, I would never have heard about it if not for Douk. By the time he encouraged me to get a couple of stalls at the market, there were only 6 left - everything had been grabbed by people in the know. At US$400 a stall, I took 4, planning to flip a couple. Later I heard there was a Korean guy who bought "many, many" with the same intention. We wondered how he had learnt about the market.

The rent for each stall is $50 a month and an option was also to rent out for a higher price if the market turns out well. I was lucky because just three days after the market opened, I had people queuing up to buy my stalls. I sold two of them at a 50% profit each. As I expected, the price would go up, because business was so brisk. Indeed just before they shut the market, people were asking - and getting - double what they paid. I had let the stalls go quickly because I am happy to make a small profit.

The lady I sold my stalls to had already 2 stalls of her own, as well as a standalone souvenir shop in one of the p'tair l'wairngs (Khmer terrace houses) around the old market. Her business was so good, in three days, she had decided it was worth expanding. Her nephew had also bought 4 stalls second-hand, at US$500 each, she claimed. So I learnt some of the "proper" shop owners had also stalls at the night market which proved to be profitable.

So I was surprised to read that some of the shopkeepers were upset. One, Khoun Naren, manager and co-owner of Cherry Blossom Boutique, which is housed in a p'tair l'wairng too, told the Phnom Penh Post: “It’s not good. It’s difficult for firemen to enter the street. They pay cheap rent while we pay $1,500. We’re working on fighting it.”

(As an aside, it's incredible Cherry Blossom pays $1500 monthly rent for one terrace house - they must have to sell a helluva lot of clothes. I find that really overpriced because it's not even on Pub Street. I was told another upmarket clothing boutique, albeit smaller, on that same street just a few doors away from Cherry Blossom pays only $500 and this guy rented the shop only last year, whereas Cherry Blossom has been in the same house for years. Update - I was just told last night rents on Pub Street are now $2500 a month. Incredible.)

The other people who are upset are of course the vendors and owners of two other night markets here in Siem Reap town: the Noon Night Market and the original Angkor Night Market, Siem Reap's first night market. The problem is the new night market is very centrally located, just off Pub Street, which means tourists do not need to make the 5 minute walk across Sivatha Boulevard to the other 2 markets.

While we're at it, I was amazed to read the owner of the Noon Night Market made so much noise about the new night market, because he himself annoyed the original Angkor Night Market when he opened a replica night market on the same street leading to the original.

At that time, vendors in the original Angkor Night Market were upset with the Noon Night Market because after all that advertising and promotion the first market did, tourists were waylaid on their way to the original market and in the confusion, a) believed the Noon Night Market to be the Siem Reap Night Market and b) if they knew there were 2 night markets on that street, they thought there was no need to visit the other (original) one which is further down the street, since Cambodian markets tend to sell almost exactly the same products.

I should point out the reason why the new night market is so cheap to rent - there is no storage space. Every single night at 6pm the tents go up and at midnight they come down again. So every single night, vendors have to take their stock from wherever and put up the lights and shelving and what not. By the time we are set up, it is almost 7pm. It is a royal pain in the arse. We keep our stock in the Bloom shop one block away and every night we have to wheel it to the night market. You should see our shop - it's like a warehouse cum retail space. Some nights I think I am insane to have the night market stall. Yet the location is much better than our shop in terms of traffic.

Anyway, back to the fiasco. So the vendors, including me, were given an option: either get your money back on a specific date or join hands in protesting against the shut down. If you take back your money, though, don't expect to get a new stall should we win the protest, said the company. On the other hand, if we stick together and protest, we will get a portion of our money back should we lose. I decided to join in the protest because I would not lose too much since I had already made back some money. I thought it was worth the risk.

Before taking on the shop, we had already known the success of the market was contingent on the authorities allowing the company to use the street. The owner reassured us by saying there was no problem. But even if there were, "you lose small money, but I lose big money."

We'll know the results on Monday. I'm chalking this down as another experience and business lesson learned in Cambodia.


Is this the night market

Is this the night market which someone with a bit of power but no permission made in the middle of a public street. I think this was one of the best scams I've seen in a long time. $50 a month rent for prime retail space, makes you wonder why anyone would rent a shop. Sure the person renting the land to you doesn't own it or have permission to use it. Possibly his other 'businesses' weren't working as well what with the global downturn etc and he had to look for other revenue streets.

How would you feel if someone opened a stall outside your shop selling the same stuff you do at half the price because he's not paying rent, personally I think the shop owners on that street should have rented the spaces, an extra $50 on top of $1500 a month is a small price to pay.

I agree rents have sky rocketed in the last 5 years, and margins haven't been increasing that much and visitor numbers have only increased about 50% during this time, unfortunately the number of competing business have quadrupled. So you need to be better at what you were doing before.

If the night market spot was much better for your business then maybe the rents that shops are paying on that street are justifiable in a business sense.

user avatar Anonymous

Great post and not too much

Great post and not too much money lost,luckily.
Too many night markets around there-one is plenty.
Phnom penh only has one.
I hate squatters too.


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