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Retailers withdraw from shopping malls over coronavirus flare-up in Ho Chi Minh City

Retailers withdraw from shopping malls over coronavirus flare-up in Ho Chi Minh City

Friday, December 17, 2021, 10:31 GMT+7
Retailers withdraw from shopping malls over coronavirus flare-up in Ho Chi Minh City
A sign shows that a stall is closed inside a shopping mall in Thu Duc City under Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

Retailers in shopping centers throughout Ho Chi Minh City have yet to reopen despite the end of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Footfall at shopping malls in the southern metropolis is beginning to pick up, especially on weekends, as Vietnam heads deeper into the holiday season, though sales figures pale in comparison to years past.

But despite the end of coronavirus-related restrictions that closed malls and shopping centers for several months, many stores and stalls in such venues remain shuttered. 

At a large shopping center on Pham Van Dong Street in Thu Duc City, restaurants in the food court are still closed despite other stores being fully reopened. 

At another shopping center in Binh Thanh District, many long-standing retailers have already terminated their leasing contracts over the past year, leaving the mall littered with empty storefronts.

A food court remains closed inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

A food court remains closed inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

During an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday, a representative of a restaurant chain that had previously operated restaurants in several shopping centers in the city said that the slow recovery of sales and losses forced the firm to reimagine its bricks-and-mortar operations.  

Specifically, the business chose to forfeit its retail space at a shopping center in Thu Duc City due to mounting costs, including its monthly rental fee of over VND100 million (US$4,350). 

As a plan B, the restaurant will relocate to a site where it expects more foot traffic but will pay the same rental fee as it did at the mall.

A restaurant remains closed inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

A restaurant remains closed inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

According to a representative of a local shopping center, a wave of retailers have forfeited their leasing contracts with shopping malls despite efforts by mall operators to cut rental to $25-35 per square meter per month. 

The operator also noted that his shopping center and others throughout the city have offered tenants flexible leasing options and rental discounts, though their efforts have failed to keep retailers in their malls. 

“We stopped collecting rent during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak," the representative said, referring to the fourth wave of COVID-19 that struck Vietnam, most seriously Ho Chi Minh City, this summer.

"When we started charging, we only collected fifty percent, but the adverse impact of the pandemic was so strong that many retailers chose not to renew their leases.

“Because of this, we have had to convert our retail spaces into office spaces.”

An empty retail space inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

An empty retail space inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

Ho Chi Minh City is still the epicenter of COVID-19 infections during the fourth coronavirus wave that flared up in the country on April 27, recording approximately 491,600 cases and over 19,000 deaths to date.

Throughout the pandemic, city authorities enforced various levels of social distancing measures, including shutting down shopping centers from the end of May to the beginning of October.

Social and business activities have resumed after daily infections dropped and vaccination rates rose.

Shops remain covered with curtains inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

Shops remain covered with curtains inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

As of Thursday, health workers in Ho Chi Minh City had administered nearly 16.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Over 6.8 million out of nine million people in the metropolis have been fully vaccinated.

All of the city’s adult population of six million have received at least one shot, while 95.1 percent have been injected twice.

An empty retail space inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

An empty retail space inside a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

People visit a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

People visit a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ngoc Hien / Tuoi Tre

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