The Saigon Tax Trade Center’s scheduled closure by October 1 saw shoppers thronging to its booths on Monday to buy discounted clothing, shoes, and handicrafts.
The center, the city’s only surviving colonial-era department store, will be demolished at the end of this year and replaced by a 40-story tower on the same site.
The new building will not only have shops and a supermarket like the old one, but also feature a convention center, a hotel, and offices for lease.
The current Saigon Tax Trade Center sells handicrafts, clothing, jewelry, electronic devices and provides a popular destination for foreign tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
Booth owners say they have been allowed to take turns displaying products on the ground floor where sales are most attractive to customers.
Bach Dung, owner of a handicraft booth, said: “I feel sad to know that this historic building will be knocked down. I have run business here for years and have many familiar and foreign customers. Now I don’t know where to go.”
The Saigon Tax Trade Center, originally known as “the Grands Magasins Charner”, opened in 1924 and became “the place to shop in Saigon,” Saigon historian Tim Doling said on his blog, Historic Vietnam.
The 1937 Guide touristique général de l’Indochine described the Grands Magasins as “the best stocked store in Indochina, with the widest choice, incomparable price and all of the facilities one would find in a Paris department store,” Doling said.
Last renovated in 2003, the building retains many of its original interior features, notably its beautifully designed stairway with decorative wrought iron railings, he said.
The new trade center’s four-storey basement will connect to the Ben Thanh –Suoi Tien metro line’s underground station. The line will span nearly 20 kilometers between District 1 and District 9 and is expected to come into operation in 2018.