Many traders at the Saigon Tax Trade Center have had no choice but to bring their goods home, as even their plans to bargain away the products could not come to fruition because the building is shutting down five days early.
The management board of the Saigon Tax, which is slated for demolition to facilitate the construction of Ho Chi Minh City’s first-ever subway system, has requested that all business activities in the building be halted as of 2:00 pm today, September 25, instead of on September 30, as earlier planned.
The early shutdown is to ensure safety for the metro construction, according to the management board.
But traders only learned of the shocking news on Monday, when they were still mounting a last-ditch effort to empty their stocks at heavily discounted prices.
Traders said they intended to take advantage of the weekends to “boost consumption,” but that plan has been shattered.
On Wednesday, while some traders still lingered in the 134-year-old trade center, located in the heart of Vietnam’s southern metropolis, others were busy packaging their stuff to bring home, or to company warehouses.
“I don’t know where we would relocate to,” a shop attendant of a jewelry store told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, while putting products into large cardboard boxes with her colleagues.
Piles of clothes, footwear products, and handicrafts were still on sale behind banners reading “70% OFF.”
“As tourists were nowhere to be seen, we had to sell at dirt cheap prices,” Nguyen Thi Thu Hong, who sells handicrafts on the second floor, lamented.
Hong said she will temporarily sell her goods at home in Binh Thanh District, as she has not found a suitable new location yet.
Many other traders at Saigon Tax also asserted that it has not been easy to find a new spot for their business.
While there are numerous spaces available at other trade centers in District 1, the city’s downtown, traders said they are leased at cut-throat prices.
Some traders said they cannot afford the US$50-70 a square meter rate offered by Vincom, a luxury shopping center only five minutes’ walk from Saigon Tax. Lucky Plaza, another deluxe trade center nearby on Nguyen Hue Street, asks for $250 per square meter, according to traders.
Vendors said their products, mostly handicrafts and souvenirs, can only find buyers in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, where foreign tourists are concentrated.
The management board of Saigon Tax has told traders that they could consider relocating to the Satra Mart supermarkets in District 8 and District 10. The two markets, along with Saigon Tax, are all managed by state-run Saigon Trading Group.
“We know we could not find any customers at such locations,” Hoang, now a former souvenir vendor at Saigon Tax, said.
A representative of the Saigon Tax management board told Tuoi Tre that they do not know how many traders would move to the Satra Mart supermarkets.
Built in 1880, the Saigon Tax Trade Center is a long-standing and renowned commercial center with a total floor area of 15,000 square meters.
At the request of the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee, 500 square meters of the center’s gross floor area will be set aside for the construction of a metro line station.
The committee 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, by September 30.
The planned subway line, which will be 19.7km long, is the first-ever to be constructed in Vietnam.
It will run from District 1 through Binh Thanh District, District 2, District 9 and Thu Duc District in Ho Chi Minh City before reaching Di An Town in neighboring Binh Duong Province. It is estimated to cost $2.49 billion.
The remaining area of the Saigon Tax Trade Center will be torn down for the development of a 40-story skyscraper. This work will begin next year.