Local people are hanging ornaments to embrace the coming Tet, which is only less than ten days away, but few of the decorations are made in Vietnam.
Just like the Westerners hanging baubles on their Christmas trees, the Vietnamese decorate their houses with real or artificial flowers, new wallpapers, lanterns, and papers with Tet symbols to celebrate the Lunar New Year, which falls on January 31 this year.
These products are widely available at stores across Ho Chi Minh City, but foreign ornaments are preferred over the locally manufactured products.
Artificial flowers made from fabric and paper are mostly imported from Japan, Thailand, and South Korea, while Chinese products dominate the market for red envelopes and decorations including plastic bamboo trees and fake firecrackers.
“Plastic or fabric flowers made by Vietnamese businesses are rough and have dull colors, thus not attractive,” said Le Thi Kim Anh, a vendor.
Pham Thi Hong Chau, a vendor in Tan Binh District, said South Korean paper flowers are seeing good sales thanks to their quality and the eye-catching designs and colors.
Vietnamese manufacturers apparently only introduced only a couple of new products for customers to choose from, so consumption is slow, Chau added.
Similarly, local businesses only have a few designs for the red envelopes, leaving most of the market open for the Chinese products. The Vietnamese products are also more expensive, according to traders.
The red envelopes are used to give lucky money to children in Tet, a custom called li xi in Vietnamese.
Hoa, who sells Tet ornaments in Binh Thanh District, said customers do ask to have a look at the Vietnamese products before making their purchase.
“But they immediately shake their heads when seeing the unattractive products presented,” she said.
There are reasons for failure to dominate the market in the home country of the local businesses, according to the director of a fine art company.
“It is not easy for Vietnamese products to compete with Chinese products, which are imported en masse,” Tran Viet Tien, director of Gia Long JSC, explained.
Chinese products that have been illicitly brought to the country are on sale at dirt cheap prices, which discourages Vietnamese makers to develop new designs or increase investments, he added.
Electric firecrackers rampant
Chinese-made electric firecrackers have emerged as a new product for the Tet market this year.
The product replicates the real firecracker, which has been banned in Vietnam since 1994, and is powered by electricity. What makes it different from the fake plastic firecracker is that it is equipped with a lighting system and is capable of producing loud explosion noises.
The HCMC market watchdog agency said that the electric firecracker is not a banned product, and thus eligible for sale. Officers only check and seize products that are sold without import certificates, they said.