Supermarkets are the future for fish retailing in Vietnam

Supermarkets are thriving in Vietnam and this will have a major impact on retail sales of fish in this fast growing Southeast Asian country.

The trend is being driven by younger Vietnamese, who prefer supermarkets to traditional wet fish markets, as they prefer the convenience and modernity of supermarket shopping.

“They do not have their parents’ expertise in being able to choose good quality fish in traditional open air markets,” said a fisheries specialist. “They prefer to shop in supermarkets where the fish has already been selected. They also prefer the cleanliness of supermarkets where there is good hygiene.”

Freshwater fish are very popular in supermarkets in Vietnam. Tilapia is sold all over the country, and customers can also find local freshwater species such as eels, carp and elephant ear fish (elephant ear fish are gouramis from the Osphronemidae family), though pangaius, another farmed freshwater species, is not often offered for sale north of Ho Chi Minh City.

Shrimp are very popular, as are tuna, and farmed Atlantic salmon is also sometimes offered for sale. This is said to be imported from China and boxes marked Lerøy have been seen. (Lerøy Seafood, which claims to be the world’s second-largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon, has a sales office in China.)

Vietnamese supermarkets are usually situated in shopping malls where clothes and other consumer goods are also on sale. There is often a food court where people can buy meals, often to eat at their places of work.

A cinema may be part of the complex and families will visit the mall for a treat or day out. They can have a meal and see a movie, in addition to doing their shopping.

Supermarkets are also appealing because they appear “foreign.” Which they often are – at least foreign-owned. Since the domestic market was opened up in 2015, what has been described as a spate of foreign retailers has entered Vietnam.

“Vietnam’s retail market is still in its infancy,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Thomas Jastrzab, in The Saigon Times. “This makes it attractive to retailers looking for fast growth potential.”

“The retail market is booming here,” said Ralf Matthaes, managing director of consultancy Infocus Mekong Research in Ho Chi Minh City, in the same local press article. “You’ve got a young population. They like to go shopping. They like the convenience of it all and they can afford mid-level range products now.”

Vingroup Joint Stock Co., Vietnam’s biggest listed property developer, planned last year for its Vinmart unit to open 100 supermarkets and 1,000 convenience stores by 2017, according to Vietnam News.

Lotte Group said last year that it plans to open 60 supermarkets in Vietnam by 2020. The South Korean retail giant also runs Lotteria fast-food chains, shopping malls, hotels and cinemas in the country.

Thai companies are also getting involved. At the end of last month, Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA, which owns the Casino supermarket chain, agreed to sell Vietnam’s Big C grocery chain to Central Group of Thailand at an enterprise value of EUR 1 billion (USD 1.14 billion).

The French retailer is selling assets in Asia and Latin America to cut debt, while focusing on price and convenience in its home market as it competes for growth amid weak consumer spending.

Central Group is one of the main family-owned conglomerates in Thailand, with interests in real estate, department stores, retailing, hospitality and restaurants.

The boom in foreign investment, coupled with rising retail sales, is helping the Vietnamese economy to expand. Achieving the government’s growth forecast of about 6.7 percent this year would make the Southeast Asian nation one of the fastest-growing markets in the world.

Vietnam has a population of 90 million people who are becoming more affluent, so it is not difficult to see why foreign companies are flocking to invest in its burgeoning retail sector. However, Matthaes said the Vietnamese retail sector is a crowded field and many supermarkets and convenience stores are not profitable.


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