Everyone can sell
A Christmas silk ornament from Cambodia shaped like a horse takes an artisan a whole day to produce. The financial gain of the sale, deducting production and material costs, leaves a net profit of $0.25 only.
Local producers work hard and receive little benefit in return – their monthly salary ranges from $120 to $150 per month. Most of them are disadvantaged, deaf or polio survivors.
To sell these ornaments at prices that can benefit the artisans may be quite challenging.
But, everyone can become a successful seller without schooling, said Veary Soun, general manager of Phaly Craft in Cambodia.
Know your customers
“Nothing comes out of thin air, know your customer and use your observation”, Veary said.
She stressed that understanding the three types of customers can take one further in sales.
The first kind of buyer is interested in the product because of the product itself. Veary recommends to “tell the buyers about the quality of the products – such as Cambodian traditionally handwoven silks – rather than talking about other details they do not wish to hear.”
The second kind of buyer is drawn to handmade products for their value rather than their quality, according to Veary. She added that “they enjoy listening to the stories behind products. Your charity logo will attract their attention.”
Finally, the most common type of prospect buyers are the window-shoppers. “Just give them a warm, welcoming smile and let them peacefully look around on their own. Tell them that it is not a problem whether they buy or not. If you’re lucky, you might be able to make a sale”, Veary said.
With over 25 years’ experience in socially-oriented-enterprises, Veary, a self-made woman who doesn’t hold any university degrees, suggests two unique features of Cambodian silk that should be communicated to the buyers.
First, Cambodia has a rich history in silk producing and weaving dating back more than a thousand years. These skills have been passed on from generation to generation. Because of this, they are the only ones capable of creating very intricate designs.
Second, investing in the Cambodian silk industry will help local communities better their livelihoods. The cost of raw silk is on the rise and the price of finished products has been cut in half in the last year. Buying Cambodian silk will help preserve this important part of their culture.
Traditional woven silk manufacturers, workshops and home-based producers can be found all over the Kingdom of Cambodia.
This growing industry induces boutique shops to relocate close to the airports and tourism sites in Phnom Penh. The Siem Reap province – with its proximity to the tourist areas, also attracts suppliers and potential buyers.
According to the Artisans’ Association of Cambodia report, there are over 45 registered member organizations regulating the silk industry and the total number of producers accounts to about 2,000.
“Buyers shouldn’t complain about the price,” said Veary, “if they do, ask them if they could survive with less than $1 a day.”
About the author – Leanghort Sok