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Is Valentine’s Day a celebration of love or consumerism?

Anith Adilah Othman / Khmer Times Share:
A woman sprays flowers for sale on Valentine’s Day. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Valentine’s Day is a global celebration and it is no different here in the Kingdom. Over the years, consumer behaviour has changed where increasing purchases related to the “festivity” have been observed.

This is evident in the number of businesses in the capital which are offering discounts all week long, with some retail outlets offering up to 55 percent markdowns.

Bigger conglomerates such as Chip Mong Land, for instance, have turned to innovative offerings by hosting a grand discount event called, “Love @ Condo” on the day itself.

Smaller businesses are also in on the merriment, seeing it as a lucrative opportunity to make money. For the past few days especially, flower vendors lined up busy streets and hotspots such as high schools and Central Market with hopes of a good sale in the name of Valentine’s Day.

“Both boys and girls come over to buy flowers from me for Valentine’s Day because I sell them at a reasonable price,” Sreytouch told Khmer Times, as she handed a single-stemmed rose over to a customer, in exchange for a $1 note.

Sreytouch, who typically sells flowers with her mother at the market, pointed out that single-stemmed roses are a popular choice among younger adults who did not want to spend too much money, especially school-goers.

While other vendors kept it colourful and creative, Sreytouch chose to keep it simple – she only sells $1-roses or $5-bouquets consisting of a few stems of roses and a small teddy bear in the center.

“My target is students. I don’t want to sell expensive bouquets because it is not guaranteed if anyone would buy them,” she said, adding that she has been stationing herself in the vicinity of several schools in the Chamkarmon area.

Meanwhile, those who are looking for variations in their flower options would head to florists where the prices range from $5 to hundreds of dollars, depending on the design, size and quantity.

“We have anything you want,” Chenda, who runs an established brick and mortar floral shop in Boeng Keng Kang 2, said.

“However, because business is busier this time of the year, I choose to focus on only three types of arrangements – a small one for $10, a medium one for $18 and a bigger one for $25.”
When asked if she would lose out on profits by only limiting the selections, she disagreed and said: “No. Business is still the best now. If not, we only get flower orders for birthdays or special events.”

As romantic as it sounds, there are still a lot of controversies surrounding Valentine’s Day celebration in the Kingdom, mostly concerning premarital sex among teens.

This has prompted the government to issue several statements warning students against committing immoral acts on the day itself and reminding them that love is not only limited to romantic relationships.

On Monday, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has asked the public to spread love to others who are less fortunate.

Meanwhile, the next day, the Ministry of Education called on teachers and parents to remind the youth about the definition of Valentine’s Day, as to not use it as an excuse to behave inappropriately.

However, Khmer Times’ checks revealed that only a handful of pharmacies and marts saw an increase of sexual enhancement products and contraceptives sales over the past week. This, however, does not mean that the buyers are planning on using them during Valentine’s Day.

“We always get customers buying viagras and condoms but they are normally foreigners. I wouldn’t say the sales have significantly increased but there are about 3-4 more customers than we would get,” a Daun Penh-based pharmacist who requested anonymity said.

Another pharmacist, who wishes to be known as Sovannara, said while he did not notice a recent increase in sales, he noted that more locals are starting to practice safe sexual intercourse based on the number of customers buying contraceptives.

“Previously, only foreigners would purchase condoms or morning-after pills. I didn’t see a lot of Khmers coming in to buy these items, except those who are also in a relationship with foreigners.

“But now, some customers would just walk in and ask questions about how to use morning-after pills, for instance. In Cambodia we still see sex as a very, very private thing. I still get embarrassed sometimes when someone buys a condom and I’m the cashier,” he added.

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