A surprisingly wide assortment of items can be scooped up at low prices from thrift shop markets in Ho Chi Minh City, ranging from cheap household utensils to pricey ornate furniture.
Hong and her younger brother recently stopped by the Tien Dung thrift shop, located on Kha Van Can Street in outlying Thu Duc District.
The siblings were looking for inexpensive second-hand cooking utensils, plastic tables and chairs, and a stainless steel cupboard and cart for their food and beverage stalls, whose clientele are mostly poor workers.
The pair left the store satisfied with their VND2.2 million (US$97) in bargains, having saved VND15,000-30,000 ($0.7-1.3) on each item they purchased, all still in good order.
Xuyen, the store owner, said her place is overflowing with low-priced items collected from households and closed cafés and restaurants.
It takes painstaking work to turn the grimy items into shiny, marketable products, she added.
Customers buy second-hand tables and chairs at a store on Kha Van Can Street, Thu Duc District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, 31, who runs a similar shop on Pham Van Bach Street in Tan Binh District, said she sometimes lands good buys from manufacturers who occasionally bargain away overstocked items.
At another store, shopper Tran Huu Tai was thrilled at his purchase of a wooden table and four chairs for slightly more than VND1 million ($44), while a group of women were eagerly perusing hairdressing items at a store across the street.
A three-kilometer section on Kha Van Can Street is home to more than 20 second-hand goods stores, ranging from 100 to 1,000 square meters each.
Intriguingly, most of the owners hail from Me Linh District in Hanoi.
A similar area on a 500-meter stretch of Pham Van Bach Street houses more of the second-hand shops.
Apart from supermarkets targeting low-income residents with inexpensive goods, several such stores trade elaborate pieces of furniture made of precious wood, electronic appliances, classy decorative items, and musical instruments no longer wanted by offices, restaurants, bars, and cafés.
Hundreds of such articles are categorized neatly for clients to choose from.
Many of these items are priced at hundreds of millions of dong.
Pham Hoang Vuong, who owns the Hoang Long second-hand goods supermarket on Kha Van Can Street, said he pays VND80 million ($3,521) in monthly rent for his business.
His family has also operated a chain of such stores in Go Vap and Tan Binh Districts for more than 10 years.
Pointing to a set of ornately carved tables and chairs made of valued ‘cam’ wood, he showed off one of his treasured collectibles on sale for around VND600 million ($26,338).
Vuong’s stores are frequented by owners of cafés and beer clubs who are on the hunt for unique ware and furnishings. “Our daily sales at the supermarket alone range from VND80 million to VND300 million [$13,169] on good days,” Vuong said.
Operators of used item shops also constantly update their new arrivals on websites to cater to the bulging number of online shoppers.
According to Nguyen Van Tung, who runs sieuthihangcu.net, online shoppers, both retail and wholesale buyers, make up a considerable chunk of clientele.
A used-homeware street in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Business on Facebook is also thriving, as customers can easily interact with shop owners and other buyers.
Mai Thi Trang, whose stock for her Sieu Thi Do Cu Facebook page mostly comes from friends and acquaintances, says she finds it interesting to seek out new owners for goods no longer needed by former holders for reasons other than quality.
Tung added such business is generally seasonal, with restaurateurs and eatery owners rushing to buy electronic appliances at the beginning of the year, when many inaugurate their facilities.
Meanwhile, most purchases at the end of the year are from private households wishing to adorn their homes.
Prices of most items are virtually the same for both online and offline shopping, Tung added.