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Retail sector feels pinch of Covid-19 outbreak

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Some businesses were shut down since the February 20 community transmission. Hean Rangsey

Retail sector feels pinch of Covid-19 outbreak

Most retail businesses in Phnom Penh have seen a substantial plunge in sales since the February 20 community transmission, which continues to spread across the capital and to the provinces.

As of March 15, the Ministry of Health has logged 810 cluster cases, bringing the Kingdom’s Covid-19 tally to 1,325, with 594 receiving ongoing treatment.

Heng Sengly, general manager of local restaurant chain Park Cafe Food and Beverage Co Ltd, told The Post that the latest transmission had triggered greater levels of anxiety and fears of going out than previous outbreaks, leading to a significant drop in the number of patrons to Park Cafe outlets during this time.

While he put the decline in sales at about 60 per cent since February 20, Sengly said online orders only saw slight falls.

However, he said, Park Cafe is ready to adapt if the situation worsens.

“If things get as severe as they did in China or Italy, we have a last resort – we’ll close the shops, only accepting orders for delivery and takeout,” he said.

According to Sengly, the first Park Cafe branch opened in 2004, with 19 more setting up in Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham province.

Chy Sila, director-general of CBM Corp Co Ltd, which brought the South Korean Tous les Jours bakery franchise to the Kingdom, noted that virtually all catering businesses had been affected during the Covid-19 epidemic.

He said Tous les Jours outlets had felt the drop in number of customers, which has weighed on the company’s revenue.

“But now we are continuing to push for more on-site delivery services. I hope the situation improves soon,” Sila said.

The latest outbreak has also strained smaller businesses.

Sopheak Leap, an employee at LN Cafe in Phnom Penh, said her income had been halved since February 20. She now sells less than 40 cups of coffee a day, a far cry from 80 just a month ago.

“The recent Covid-19 outbreaks in the community have left the shop quiet and without customers at all for the last couple of days,” she said.

On the other hand, Thong Sophoan, a kitchenware seller in Phnom Penh, said her shop’s sales have not been doing so well since the beginning of the year, suggesting that people had tightened their budgets even before February 20.

“My sales aren’t doing so hot lately. Looking back on previous days, I’d be able to sell out the 20-to-30 items I stock in just two weeks. And now I’ve had them for nearly two months and can’t rid myself of them.

“I’m worried what’ll happen if sales remain as poor as they are. Where am I going to get the money to pay for water and electricity bills, rent or bank payments?”

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