Shop owners at the Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigon Tax Trade Center say news that they have to move out of the venue came as suddenly as lightning, leaving them with little time, and huge pains, in following the order.
SATRA, the operator of the Saigon Tax Trade Center, told vendors earlier this month that they have to end premise-leasing contracts and move out by October 1, for the 130-year-old building to be demolished to give way for a skyscraper.
The sudden shutdown left shop owners in shock as they were only given less than two months to leave the venue, located in the heart of the southern metropolis.
“My contract is due at the end of this year, but two weeks ago they told me to leave before October 1,” Doan Van Phung, who sells handicrafts on the third floor, said.
Phung said he should have been informed of this three months in advance as per the contract terms to have enough time to deal with it.
The store owner has recently sourced a large number of new items to embrace the seasons of high demand including Christmas and New Year, but now does not know “how I could empty the stock by the deadline.”
At the request of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee, 500 square meters out of a total of 15,000 square meters of the center’s gross floor area will be set aside for the construction of a part of a metro line station.
The committee has required the area to be handed over to the Ho Chi Minh City Urban Railway Management Board for building the ventilation structures of the metro station, one of 14 stations on the Ben Thanh-Suoi Tien metro line.
SATRA, fully known as the Saigon Trading Group, has granted leasing-fee exemptions to all shop owners at the building in August and September as a support for the sudden shutdown.
But Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, a trader, said the support is nothing compared with the losses of the shop owners.
Most of the vendors at Saigon Tax said they are willing to relocate to facilitate the construction of such a large public transportation project like the subway. The only thing they ask for is to be given more time, they said.
“We only wish to be able to continue doing business here until the end of this year to reduce losses and prepare for the relocation,” Doan Thi Dung, a souvenir vendor, said.
Tran Sy Quy, the head of sales of Saigon Tax, said SATRA decided to shut down the trade center as the construction of the metro system would block the way of customers and goods loading into the building.
Besides exempting leasing fees for vendors, Quy said Saigon Tax will also assist them to continue their business at two SATRA shopping malls in District 8 and District 10.
But Saigon Tax traders said these supports are useless, saying their goods -- mostly souvenirs and handicrafts -- could only be sold in the city’s downtown, where there are many international tourists.
“Who in District 8 and 10 would ever buy our stuff?” one of the shop owners said.
A representative of Saigon Tax, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the trade center’s support is “voluntary and humane.”
He added that Saigon Tax also incurs considerable expenses.
“We collect around VND5 billion (US$235,338) in leasing fees a month, and the two-month exemption costs us VND10 billion,” he said.
An official from SATRA, meanwhile, said it is working with the District 1 tax department to reduce taxes for Saigon Tax traders.