Steep decline in buyers struck post-pandemic Ben Thanh Market

Failure to attract domestic consumers during prosperous times along with the immediate impact of Covid-19 has proven devastating for shopkeepers in Ben Thanh Market when they struggle to keep business running even as the market opens like usual.
Ben Thanh Market, despite being one of the main and most long-standing tourist attractions in HCMC, has been seeing a steep decline in buyers since the pandemic hit 
Even though sales improved slightly at the beginning of March, mostly in the dry food, clothing and souvenir sections, the market ground still looks deserted.
Steep decline in buyers struck post-pandemic Ben Thanh Market ảnh 1 Shopkeepers chatting to kill time in front of closed shops (Photo: SGGP)
“People only opened shops again after news of the Covid vaccine being available, otherwise it would be even more empty around here”, said Thanh, a small trader of dry food in the market.
Meanwhile, a 50-year-old named Xuan said she had to take a risk against the virus to keep business going. “Our family owns 6 food stalls and used to hire 20 salespeople who are all our relatives, but now we can only keep 2 stalls running”.
Many shop owners in Ben Thanh market switched to selling online to survive, while others turned to food delivery services to get more coverage.
Toan, who runs a sweet beverage stall, said the delivery app he was collaborating with charges a whopping 25 percent in commission. “I just hope this virus goes away soon; I would never have worked with those services otherwise”, he lamented.
On the other hand, most domestic buyers, especially the locals of HCMC, have proven uninterested in shopping at Ben Thanh market due to inflated prices.
Now that the market is opened as usual, the very few visitors here are Vietnamese tourists from Hanoi and Danang. Most shopkeepers who previously tried to appeal more to foreign tourists are now beckoning local shoppers.
According to a small trader named Quoc, the rental fee, overheads and taxes for a stall at Ben Thanh market are much higher than any traditional market in the city, causing prices to increase.
Statistics from the Ben Thanh Market Management Board showed 570 shops still open on March 05 compared to nearly 1,500 shops on a normal day before 2020.
“The market ground is still open like usual, but many shopkeepers applied to close shop to avoid paying taxes, some even looking to sell their rights to run a stall here”, said a member of the board.

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