The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on various sectors of Vietnam’s economy and society, leading to some delays in travelling and business operations. And now, it has almost destroyed the long-awaited shopping event of the year, Black Friday, in Ho Chi Minh City.
Shops still saw lines of people waiting to purchase their products; however, this year’s footfall and turnover seemed to drop sharply as consumers were reluctant to spend money compared to the same season last year.
Quoc, who went shopping with his family at Gigamall in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City, said that he spent VND5 million (US$220) buying household appliances and clothes, only half what he had shelled out last Black Friday season.
"I saw many products sold at cheaper prices than normal, but still unaffordable for me,” he said.
“There were not many doorbuster deals for luxury goods, so I was not willing to pay.”
Nguyen Thi Y Lan, another shopper in the city, said that she had bought her family a lot of clothes as gifts during the last Lunar New Year holiday.
But this year, she just dropped by the shops, looked around, and left without grabbing anything home.
“I was reluctant to pay as I need to save money for a rainy day, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lan explained.
The number of visitors dropping by the Kohnan Japan shop at Gigamall soared over the first days during this Back Friday occasion, but purchasing power was only half of last year’s, or about 60 percent of its target, said Huynh Gia Dat, manager at the stall selling consumer goods at the shopping center.
Minh, when managing a Nike-branded footwear store at Gigamall, noticed an increase in the goods sold in the first days of the sale season, but it was almost half way through his expectation only.
This year’s purchasing power remains weak, especially for non-essential products, according to an Emart supermarket representative in Go Vap District.
Although brands have offered generous discounts to encourage purchases, consumers still hold hesitant attitudes toward buying non-essentials, let alone footing large bills for high-end products.
However, purchasing power is forecast to improve sharply thanks to promotions, large-scale trade fairs, and increasing consumer demand for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, due around late January and February.
Online shopping has shown some promising signs in the meantime.
Many businesses have applied price deduction to various items including fashion goods, electronic products, and imported foods on websites to lure consumers, given a slump in in-store purchases.
A representative of Central Group Vietnam said that customers are still afraid of venturing out on offline shopping trips amid the pandemic, so they tend to hunt for discounted commodities in cyberspace.