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|Well-stocked retailers comfort concerned consumers, illustration photo|
Unlike the images of crowds outside supermarkets and fights over toilet paper and essential goods on social media since COVID-19 occured, mother-of-one Nguyen Linh has witnessed plenty of packed shelves when shopping at Hanoi’s Hadong Co.opmart both before and after social distancing orders began this month.
Linh was not too worried about being stuck indoors and self-isolating as all customers received an automatic message informing them the supermarket system had prepared to operate normally after April 1, and reminded customers to keep a safe distance between themselves when shopping.
Meanwhile, in Ho Chi Minh City, store shelves were reportedly stocked with rice, toilet paper, and other essentials. Under the strict measures on social distancing, all citizens are required to stay indoors and will only be allowed to go out for necessities such as purchasing food or medicine in order to prevent and combat the COVID-19 spread.
This is one of Vietnam’s quick measures to cope with the spreading outbreak. The World Economic Forum remarked, “This is the challenge facing many of the world’s poorer and developing nations, including countries like Vietnam. But while it might look like a foregone conclusion that the coronavirus outbreak would ravage such a country, Vietnam has instead stood out as a beacon of how to do more with less.”
There is no one-size-fits-all method of deciding on the best time to enact social distancing measures, but the well-prepared actions thus far in Vietnam have not caused any chaos.
Tran Duy Dong, head of the Domestic Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), confirmed that stockpiles are always ready. Meanwhile, supermarkets have assured that they have stocks of full goods for the next three or six months.
Nguyen Thi Kim Dung, director of Hadong Co.opmart said, “Thanks to the preparation in advance, the supermarket always provides enough for customers. We reserve triple the amount of essential goods including rice, instant noodles, meat, and eggs compared to before,” adding that commercial stores are closed, so supermarkets take advantage of being warehouses to serve the people.
With 35 supermarkets across Vietnam, Thai-backed Big C confirmed that all of its supermarkets are open as usual during the social distancing period. The supermarket has even increased its reserves to two or three times of that in normal days
“According to the prime minister’s instructions, the vehicles carrying goods and necessities are still operating normally. We are not worried about the logistics system in the coming days,” said a representative, adding that prices of essential commodities have not been increased.
Similarly, the representative of South Korea’s Lotte Mart also said that retailers are fighting to keep the shelves stocked and the doors open, all while keeping their employees safe. Supermarkets are also reminded not to leave the shelves empty, to avoid creating fake scarcity.
Evidently, retailers have been preparing for the coronavirus for some weeks, working closely with suppliers in order to ensure customers can get what they want and need. Besides that, retailers have also cut the prices of many products and adapted quickly to social distancing guidelines that promote safer retail store shopping as well as encourage online shopping.
Meanwhile, although essential commodities recorded high demand, the crisis has tightened other commodities.
A MoIT report last week noted that giant retailers like Lotte, Aeon Vietnam, and Saigon Co.op have been hit by the crisis. Lotte recorded a dip of about 50 per cent in revenues compared to January and by more than 20 per cent on-year. Aeon Vietnam saw a 2 per cent fall in January and 6 per cent decrease in February compared to the plan. Meanwhile, Saigon Co.op felt a 50 per cent slump in retail revenue in the first 2 months of the year.
COVID-19 has managed to change consumer shopping habits. According to a report by the world’s leading data provider Kantar Worldpanel in March, there are changes not only in consumer baskets but also in their channel choice during the virus outbreak, and online shopping is booming significantly.
More people are shopping online than usual, accelerating the growth of online fast-moving consumer goods to a triple-digit rate in just one month. Meanwhile, shopping locations most commonly used for daily needs are losing traffic. As such, street shops and convenience stores are seeing a short-term impact.
From February, Big C has implemented a call and order service with free delivery on purchase totals of VND200,000 ($8.70) or more to counter this trend. One official said that after deploying the service, the number of orders by phone has increased by over 200 per cent.
Meanwhile, Lotte Mart has recorded about 200 orders through its e-commerce SpeedL platform. Co.opmart has also stepped up deployment of online shopping channels.