Discount sales woo inflation-weary shoppers

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All major retailers have been offering attractive discounts to encourage recession-wary shoppers to loosen their purse strings for the festive season, and the initial response has been positive.

The discount sales began prior to Christmas and are set to stay until Tet, the Lunar New Year festival that falls in the last week of this month.

Shoppers have been crowding supermarkets in Hanoi such as Media Mart, Pico, Big C, and many other stores to get discounts of up to 50 percent on everything from electronics products to toys.

Around 1,000 shoppers flocked to the Pico stores when it opened until midnight on December 31.

Elsewhere, a large number of shoppers headed to the Zen Plaza shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City to take advantage of deals on offer from December 30 to January 2. Customers were able to get discounts of 30-50 percent on its products, and those who bought products worth VND1.5 million (US$71.4) and more in a day were given a VND100,000 coupon.

Last November, the Big C supermarket chain had tens of thousands of shoppers rushing in when it, for the first time, opened the doors at midnight, nearly 10 hours earlier than it normally does.

"I came here to get discounts," said Nguyen Duc Minh, 45, of Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung District, buying a washing machine for around $100 at Pico. Earlier, he had gone to Big C and bought two coats and a pair of jeans for his sons, for around $45.

Vu Vinh Phu, chairman of the Hanoi Association of Supermarkets, said: "The price reduction may be a good way to spur purchasing demand, which is smaller because of the economic recession. The longer hours at some supermarkets have also facilitated consumers in buying goods."

Phu said longer shopping hours and other sales promotions were a relatively new activity in Vietnam, so it was difficult to assess its effectiveness now.

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He said these promotions could make goods more attractive to local consumers, who are looking for cheaper prices, he said.

Nguyen Hoang Lan, 35, from Dong Da District, began shopping at the local Parkson at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and left the mall three hours later, carrying a big bag full of garments, shoes and toys.

"Now is the best time to buy. Everything is available at "˜shocking' prices," Lan said. She continued looking for deals on a new laptop at an electronics store.

Nguyen Bich Thuy, owner of a clothes shop on Minh Khai Street, said: "The country is experiencing an economic downturn, so consumers want to do everything to cut spending."

Many shops in Hanoi have announced discounts of 20-50 percent, and people are rushing to get deals on a wide range of products.

"In fact, these promotions are a ploy retailers use to lure customers into their shops," Phu said. "The amount of goods with discounts may be limited, and after entering the shops, customers may spend more on other products that are not on sale."

Moreover, stores may increase their product prices before their promotion campaigns, so that they earn profits even after offering big discounts, he said.

According to a recent survey by Nielsen Vietnam, a global information and measurement company, Vietnamese consumers like to purchase products on sale. Up to 74 percent of respondents said they were cutting their spending by buying products on sale.

Vietnam's inflation rose 18.58 percent in 2011, according to the General Statistics Office. An initial inflation target of 7 percent for 2011 was raised subsequently to 18 percent as prices soared. The General Statistics Office says the nation posted an economic growth of 5.89 percent last year.

The discount sales have attracted a lot of customers who are purchasing things at lower prices instead of waiting for an economic recovery and earning bigger incomes.

Cao Huy Binh, 30, an accountant with a bank in Hanoi, stood in line at Pico, waiting to pay for his purchases.

He had bought a Samsung TV for $250, and a camera for over $100.

Binh said he was able to save around 30 percent on his purchases now and continued his festival season shopping spree, looking for electrical home appliances.

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