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The Changing Face of HCMC Shopping

By Minh Hung &Trinh Thi Ninh, Vietnam News, Vietnam

Sadly, Mom and Pop stores in Ho Chi Minh City are disappearing as large Western supermarkets change the way Vietnamese buy for the dinner table.
A woman owner of a small market in a quiet residential quarter of HCMC said “If a supermarket appears here, I’ll lose customers. How can I earn money to support my family. Worse than that, how can I bear all the noise of the trucks, motorbikes, and shoppers.”
Maximart, one of the first large-size supermarkets, opened in Ho Chi Minh City a few months ago. At that time, many thought it would not have many customers because Vietnamese people were not used to shopping in this Western-style market.
In reality, Maximart, as well as similar stores, is frequented by thousands of city people everyday.

 With economic development in Vietnam accelerating at a rapid pace, the opening of supermarkets in the city was inevitable.

A Thai businessman, Viroj Phutrakul, executive chairman of Boonrawd Asia Co., Ltd, informed a group of visiting journalists from Indochina in Bangkok recently that he planned to build a big supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City, like those run by his company in a number of other Asian countries. However, according to the executive, he has not yet received a license from the authorities. 
Viroj, addressing participants of a business and economic course sponsored by the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation, said “HCMC would experience a shopping boom if local authorities were not too cautious about foreign investment.” He also predicted that big supermarkets, which have existed for some time in Bangkok, would soon be common in Indochina countries.
There are now more than 250 markets, big and small, in the 18 districts of HCMC where many tens of thousands people shop every morning.
Eight years ago, there was only one supermarket in HCMC. It was reserved exclusively for foreigners. Now there are more than 20 supermarkets. The first of these started operation two years ago. All are run by Vietnamese companies.
So, what has caused this change?

Ms. Nguyen Thi Lan is a case in point. She works at the Saigon Post Office from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. "I’m a regular customer of Maximart. I have no time for shopping at the market. Apart from this, the market near my house is too crowded. I’m tired of shopping there."

With a population of more than 5 million, nearly double that of 20 years ago, HCMC has little real estate that can be devoted to new markets.

Apart from this, many factories have opened in the city in the last few years as the result of the industrialisation program. Most people go to work and so they cannot go shopping at any fixed time of the day.

Beyond that, with the standard of living now improving, Saigonese are changing their demands for consumer goods.

A manager of Tan Dinh market in downtown HCMC said: “At present, those who come to markets need many things, chiefly vegetables, fish, and meat. My market cannot meet their demands.”
Thus, the opening of many supermarkets in HCMC is to fill “these holes.” There is a wide range of goods from soap, food, and rice to cosmetics on sale. Besides, the supermarkets, opening from early morning till late in the evening, offer good service to those who work during the day.

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