If you are a savvy shopper in Phnom Penh, you have likely encountered many shops that sell second-hand clothes. You are sure to find some great deals at these shops, located in markets or along the street, but it is quite obvious that you are having a gander at used goods. This is not the case at the new Sakura Japanese thrift store located on St. 271 not far from Chea Sim Samky high school in the capital.
The one floor shop is well designed, with clothes that are so stylish that you wouldn’t know they were used unless you looked at the sign on the way in that says “Sakura Used Japanese Products.” As the name suggests, all of the products are imported from Japan, and the shipments contain more than just clothes, you are likely to find a bunch of stuff from furniture to toys, accessories and appliances.
The shop is open from 10am to 10pm, and I strolled up during the early afternoon on my lunch break from my studies at university. I was surprised at how many cars and motor-bikes were parked outside and once I walked in I saw that most of them were driven by students, who were still in their uniforms, also taking advantage of their midday break for some budget shopping.
The store is well lit and fans keep the airflow going, however there is a certain smell that only comes from used clothes, and despite the aesthetic appeal of the threads at Sakura, the old clothes smell still required a brief period for acclimation. Once we got used to smell my friends and I were able to stroll up and down the aisles and focus on finding the true gems within the racks packed with clothes.
Looking at the prices of the goods on display, we noticed another differences from the second hand shops we were used to: there was a much wider variety of prices. Some things were only 1,000 riel while other prized-pieces cost over US$300. In general things were still way cheaper than they would be at Pencil or Sorya.
People seemed quite interested in the shoes and household items at the shop, but I noted few clothes being tried on. I suspect it is because of the overflow of sweaters in the shop, which most Cambodians would only buy if they were planning a trip to Japan or a place with a comparably cold climate.
A few things jumped out at me while we pursued the offerings at the second-hand shop. There was a pair of shoes that were beautiful and looked nothing like any footwear I had seen before. I think a tear might have streamed down my face when I tried them on and they were a bit too tight for my foot. There was also a gorgeous kitchen set complete with a tea pot, plates and cupboards. My friend was moved to buy a teapot for his father but the price proved prohibitive and he gently set it back on the shelf.
Near the end of our hour-long browse we noticed a room with a sign that said employees only. Inside were piles and piles of clothes, toys and hundreds of other objects that would soon be on sale. Some brave customers went in anyhow but their time was fleeting as staff members soon asked them to get out. I heard them muttering about how many attractive and cheap goods they saw in the forbidden room.
Sakura has just about everything you could want, especially if you have the time to look around for a while. If you are a style snob who only wears the newest brand name stuff, perhaps this isn’t your spot, but for everyone else, you owe it to yourself to at least stop by.By: Dara Saoyuth and Touch YinVvannith
This article was published on Lift, Issue 46 published on November 24, 2010