Vietnam retail on brink of c-store boom

Vietnam retail is on the brink of a convenience store boom as multinationals muscle up against fast-expanding local players.

The increasing pace of life in urban Vietnamese cities is fuelling demand for convenience stores which, until three to four years ago, seemed few and far between on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Since then, numerous c-stores have been opened by foreign retailers, such as Japan’s Family Mart, Thailand’s B’smart and US-founded Circle K, competing against local ones, such as C-Express, VinMart, and Co.op Food. According to a Nielsen survey, six out of 10 Vietnamese buyers shop at c-stores because of their advantageous location and five out of 10 because of good design and displays. Local students are the main customers during lunchtime, attracted by comfortable dining spaces, cool temperature and free wifi.

Pham Ngoc Hung, VP of HCMC Business Association, said the HCMC market is attractive to Thai retailers with 98 B’smart stores and 10 C-Express by Big C stores already trading. In the meantime, local chain VinMart by VinGroup, is approaching 700 stores and is reportedly opening an average of two new stores nationwide each day.

The fastest-growing chain in the HCMC is Circle K, the local rights owned by Vong Tron Do company. It has 150 stores and promises for further expansion. Today, in every residential quarter, there are two or three Circle K  stores, usually less than 600m apart.

But the c-store boom is only just beginning. Last year, Japanese c-store giant 7 Eleven signed a master franchise agreement with Seven System Vietnam to expand across the country. The first stores are scheduled to open in 2017, and the target is 1000 within 10 years. CP All, which operates more than 8000 7-Eleven stores in Thailand, is a partner in the Vietnam venture and says it plans for 40 per cent of its stock to be locally sourced, with the balance from Thailand and elsewhere.

Existing operators are waiting to see what type of stores 7-Eleven will roll out in the Vietnam market – given the considerable difference in sizes of its Thai stores – and the morphing of the format by Circle K in Vietnam to include dining area and fast food focus.


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