Santa Claus not coming to town

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A Christmas ornament shop with no customers in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre

The grand Christmas shopping season is less merry in Vietnam this time around as customers keep their pockets tight after another hard year.

Retailers in the country's commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City said most visitors only passed by for window shopping and showed little interest in big promotions like 50 percent discounts or "buy 1 get 1 free," according to a Tuoi Tre report.

Hoang Anh, a city local, had planned to buy a pine tree for decoration like in previous years, but the budget she set for the season finally could only buy new clothes for the family.

Another mother Nguyet Nga planned to cut her spending on Christmas costumes that she used to buy every year for her two children.

Many clothes and accessories stores in the city's downtown are having another bad year, with many items on offer actually leftover from last year.

An employee at a fashion store in Go Vap District said it had received few customers despite offering VND100,000 discounts on most products.

"We were busy in previous years as people jostled for the price cuts."

Shops and malls like Big C and Co.op Mark supermarket chains have placed pine trees, Santa Claus statues, Christmas costumes, balls and lights at their prominent spaces, but they remain decorations at the shops, as there have been more lookers than buyers.

A representative from a supermarket chain said holiday occasions like Christmas have ceased to be sparkling events as decorations are no longer a shopping target, even as gifts.

People prefer more realistic items, especially those having energy-saving effects or the like, the agent said.

Thanh Huyen, an assistant at a wholesaler of ornaments in Ho Chi Minh City that also provides house decoration services, said  consumption had dropped to half of last year.

"Our familiar customers have made much cheaper orders than in previous years," she said.

Huyen said the company used to provide to big orders only, like at least dozens of Santa Claus costumes a time, but they have been selling orders of two or three costumes also, as retailers do not risk buying too much in an unpromising trade.

"Business was robust several years ago, when we sold a lot of things including Santa Claus costumes for both children and adults, to companies for them to use as gifts.

"But we only offer a small number of children's clothes this year."

A vendor at Binh Tay wholesale market in District 6 said the shopping spirit had picked up early in previous Christmas seasons. "This year is far worse."

In the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho, many shops and companies have not put up their holiday decorations yet, as a representative of a local bank said most businesses had a too difficult a year to afford celebration.

Pham Thi Hanh, a shop vendor in Hanoi, said almost no customers were buying ornaments worth more than VND2 million like pine trees or fake snowmen.

Shops in the central hub Da Nang have just begun displaying their Christmas products, but most are unsold ones from last year.

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