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Big C plans rapid expansion as first Phnom Penh store launched

Thailand-based grocery and general merchandising retailer – Big C – will embark on a rapid expansion over the next five years planning to open 350 stores across the country and creating thousands of local jobs.

The disclosure comes as the company launched its first Big C branded store in Phnom Penh this week located near the Olympia City develop project. The company had already opened its first Cambodian store at the border town of Poi Pet in 2019.

Gary Hardy, Chief Operations Officer of Big C told Cambodia Investment Review that the company decided to expand further into the Cambodian market as the country continues along its strong growth trajectory.

He cited rising incomes, connection to the Big C brand, strategic supply chain locations and overall similar consumer demand as Thailand were major factors for the expansion.

“The Big C brand already has a strong presence in neighboring countries such as Thailand and Laos – so strategically Cambodia was the obvious next market destination for us. In addition, Cambodia is a rapidly growing economy and we want to establish our brand here as it continues to grow,” Hardy said.

The Big C brand operates several styles of store formats ranging from its flagship hypermarket ‘Big C Supercenter’ offering a wide array of products to its proximity stores ‘mini-Big C’ averaging around 80–250 square meters. 

“We believe our stores and home brand products will prove popular amongst the Cambodian population, especially for packaged goods. Our fresh produce may take time to develop as a consumer a more accustomed to wet markets,” Hardy said.

Cambodian consumers still largely purchase groceries and general merchandising in traditional open-air markets as oppose to Western-style grocery stores. However, over the past 10 years, more brands have launched to fill the gap.

In 2017, Makro opened its first supermarket in Phnom Penh, a joint venture of Siam Makro, which operates more than 100 Makro stores in Thailand, and Cambodia’s LYP Group Company Limited.

Japanese retailer AEON opened its flagship mall and hypermarket in 2014, opening a second and currently building a third. There are also locally owned Super Duper stores Phnom Penh’s only 24 hours supermarket, wholesale mart Thai Huot and Lucky Markets are considered the leading retail chain.

“In terms of competition, we don’t feel like there is a single dominant player in the market. While there are a few offering different services and formats none are currently operating at the size and scope that we plan to be,” Hardy said.

“That said, our rapid expansion requires hiring thousands of local staff so we may have some initial human resource constraints as we develop our workforce,” he added.

The expansion of Big C – operated and managed under Berli Jucker Public Company Limited or the BJC Group (BKK: BJC) – will complete the company’s Thai, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia regional development strategy.

According to the international market researcher Euromonitor, Cambodia was identified as one of the “20 Markets of the Future” that will offer the most opportunities for consumer goods companies.

The report cited a young and growing population, growing middle and investments to infrastructure as well as improved business climate are anticipated to foster sales of consumer goods.

In May, the Bangkok-based Cambodia Business Council was launched stating more than 1,000 companies from Thailand had registered at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, including BJC BigC Group of Companies, Siam Cement Group and Charoen Pokphand Group (CP All).

Last week CP All (Cambodia) the licensed franchisor of 7-Eleven opened its first branch located in Chroy Changvar. CP All has previously told local media that the debut will be followed by six more store openings during 2021

According to reports, Cambodia exported $1.148 billion worth of goods and products to Thailand and imported $6.089 billion last year.

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