Businesses paint gloomy picture as Tet shoppers tighten purse strings

By Duc Minh, Thi Ha, Tat Dat   January 19, 2023 | 03:13 pm PT
Businesses paint gloomy picture as Tet shoppers tighten purse strings
Shoppers at a Big C supermarket in HCMC’s Go Vap District. Photo by VnExpress/Thi Ha
Unusually for Tet (Lunar New Year holidays), businesses are complaining consumers are spending less on gifts, accessories, jewelry, fruits, and electronics, causing stocks to pile up.

Ha, who sells imported goods brought by air, said the number of orders this year has halved from last Tet. "In previous years sales were very good [starting a week before Tet]. I would get a lot of orders. Now it is sluggish."

She said her customers, even if they work for foreign companies and large state-owned enterprises and have high incomes, are spending less this year.

Low-priced gift hampers -- costing VND550,000-800,000 (US$23-34) – are the ones selling well this year. Instead of buying 5-kg salted pork thighs like last year, shoppers are opting for one kilogram packs.

Ha said her customers would often buy watches worth tens of millions of dong, but this year they remain on the shelf. "Handbags costing more than VND5 million too have few takers, and customers are instead opting for those priced at around VND1 million."

It is the same with jewelry, with most buying items for not more than VND2 million, she said. Minh, the owner of an online fruit store in Hanoi, said demand is down this year. "Customers do not buy all kinds as before but opt for essential fruits."

Her family’s fruit wholesale stall in the city’s Long Bien Market is also seeing weaker demand. "There has never been a year when the run-up to Tet has been so dull as now. In past years we would have dozens of trucks bringing fruits. This year there are only two."

An Linh, the owner of a flower shop in Hanoi’s Hoang Mai District, said unlike in previous years, she was "flooded with work," this Tet "people just ask for prices but buy nothing."

Electronics and furniture stores also paint a gloomy picture despite splashing out on promotions. An employee of an electronics store on Hanoi’s Nguyen Trai Street said customers check out items and prices but do not buy.

In HCMC, the manager of an electronics supermarket on Dien Bien Phu Street, Binh Thanh District, said in previous years customers would stand in long lines to pay at the cashier’s counter, but not happen this year. "People are tightening their purse strings, so sales of electronics goods are sluggish. Let us see what happens between now and Lunar New Year’s Eve." Tet falls on January 22-26 this time.

Nguyen Lac Huy, a store manager at electronics chain CellphoneS, said sales only increased by 35-50% compared to normal days, much lower than the 50-100% in previous years.

The peak shopping period this year is for only around a week, while typically it lasts up to two weeks, he said.

"The economic situation, especially in the second half of 2022, was not good and workers have got smaller Tet bonuses or had their salaries delayed."

Sales of IT products, laptops and phones in the low-cost segment are down this year since workers’ incomes have been affected by the gloomy economic situation.

Data from online market Cho Tot shows sales of used phones jumped by 23% from Tet 2022, while those of new phones only increased by 0.04%.

Demand for many other products, especially big-ticket items such as household appliances and electronic devices, declined by 4-14%.The only items to escape the carnage this year have been fresh foods, whose sales in HCMC’s traditional markets and supermarkets have been strong and are increasing.

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