Most of the shops are still small-scale affairs, however. While the shopkeepers work on the retail aspect of their stores, often the biggest challenge they face is choosing the right supply.
Local fashion shops are usually supplied with foreign-made goods. The owners must weigh the pros and cons of buying at other local markets, making overseas trips or employing middlemen to supply product.
The logistics are a headache, though, and profits often hinge on getting it right.
“People buy more clothes these days. They buy dozens of clothing items, not only one or two,” said Daw Ei Mon Htwe, a Yangon clothing seller. “But their focus is on price.”
Customers may be fashion-conscious, but they also know what similar items cost at Daw Ei Mon Htwe’s competitors, she said.
Keeping costs low can be a challenge, but imported clothing is getting more expensive. The price of supplies keeps rising, and businesspeople such as Daw Nilar at Pinki Fashion said the costs are largely out of their hands.
Keen to beat the rising prices, small businesspeople are tackling their supply chains.
One businessperson said she travelled to China last December to purchase the clothes she then retails at her Mandalay shop, called Sheina Fashion. Her business is still starting out, but the ability to buy large quantities from Guangzhou has been a large help.
“Selling clothes is not easy, because it’s tough to tell what will be fashionable,” she said.
“We must keep up with current fashions. If our store is stocked with old fashion and new fashion comes out, we’re stuck holding stock and lose money.”
“Keeping up with fashion is our biggest concern,” she said.
Not all designs that are popular overseas will be accepted in Myanmar. For instance, in winter many Chinese markets carry coats that are meant for freezing temperatures, not quite practical garb for much of Myanmar.
The owner of Sheina Fashion said she also visits Bangkok, which is closer to Myanmar, with seasons that are more in sync.
She added that travelling to Guangzhou was a tiring experience the first time. She couldn’t find anyone to hire to carry around her purchases, so ended up with bags full of clothing to stock her shelves at the store.
“I’ve always been interested in fashion, and have bought from a shop, so I thought I’d open my own shop,” she said.
Most other shop owners go to Ruili, a Chinese city on the border with Muse in Shan State, and purchase from wholesalers. Sheina Fashion could stand out more by travelling the extra distance to the bigger city and buying better-quality clothes.
Others are not so ambitious in sourcing the clothes they sell. Ma Ei Mon Myint Han, owner of Facebook Girl fashion shop in Bago township, said there are large-scale merchants who purchase bulk clothing from Thailand and China. They sell on credit terms to shops like Facebook Girl, which then pay on a monthly or weekly basis.
Facebook Girl is one of dozens of shops that relies partly on online sales. Customers see an item they like with shop and reserve it with her, later making a deal in person. Some items, such as cosmetics, are only available at the physical shop, as customers are finicky with them.
Ma Ei Mon Myint Han would like to travel to Bangkok and make purchases directly, which as she sees it would cut out the middle sellers.
“I buy from merchants, so I have to divide my profits with them,” she said.
Another clothing retailer, Daw San San Htwe, said it is important that shop owners go on the trips to Bangkok and China. If business owners go, the trips have a habit of getting expensive.
She used to travel to Bangkok and China to buy clothes for sale, but has stopped the business due to the toll it took. “I was very tired so I gave it up,” she said.
Daw San San Htwe now runs a smaller shop in her township, stocked with merchandise purchased at Yangon’s larger markets, like Mingalar market. This avenue cuts profits, though, as the products are more expensive.
Source: Myanmar Times