Vietnam is listed as Southeast Asia’s sixth most significant market and has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. As a result, Vietnam can offer businesses a strategic location that benefits companies looking to expand their regional operations. Vietnam also has a youthful and skilled labor force that can serve as a solid base for companies that need trained staff, making the nation an exciting location with lots of possibilities. This is especially true in Vietnam’s retail and trade markets for consumer products.
At current exchange rates, the GDP per individual in 2022 was projected to be 95.6 million VND. As Vietnam moves up the income ladder, operating a company in Vietnam has become easier over time, making the country more appealing to international investors.
The fundamental steps for operating a retail or wholesale company in Vietnam are explained in this article.
Overview Retail & Wholesale in Vietnam
In 2022, Central Retail’s Vietnam unit accounted for 25% of the conglomerate’s group-wide sales, making it the largest international retailer in the Vietnamese market. Olivier Langlet, CEO of Central Retail Vietnam, predicts that Vietnam’s GDP growth for 2023 will be 6.7%, making it the fastest-growing market in Southeast Asia.
Central Retail expanded into Vietnam’s retail market in 2016 with its acquisition of the local supermarket network BigC. Over the next five years, the group has plans to invest USD 1.45 billion in Vietnam, which would be its biggest investment made in the country so far. The corporation will utilize the funds to expand the number of its stores in Vietnam to nearly 600, almost double its current number. In 2023, the management plans to invest USD 173.1 million in the Vietnamese market.
Aeon, a Japanese company, is also planning to expand its presence in Vietnam by opening 100 supermarkets by 2025, roughly ten times the number of stores it had in the country as of October 2021. The company also has plans to establish 16 malls throughout Vietnam.
Vietnam’s retail and wholesale industry contributes significantly to the national economy. The industry has rapidly developed in recent years due to factors such as the expanding middle class, urbanization, and rising wages. Additionally, the retail and distribution industry ranks as the nation’s second-most preferred industry for M&A.
Retail Market in Vietnam
Retail offers customers products or services directly for their use or consumption. As a result, more international businesses are looking into Vietnam’s lucrative retail industry, which has a market worth US$142 billion today and is expected to reach $350 billion by 2025.
Many Vietnamese still prefer to purchase in physical stores rather than online for everyday needs. However, internet shopping is also growing due to the widespread use of mobile devices and the Internet. As a result, Vietnam is one of the top three Southeast Asian nations with the highest increases in online retail sales, with sales on e-commerce platforms reaching 13 billion USD last year, up 16% from 2020.
Currently, Vietnam is home to a number of retail giants, both domestic (SaigonCo.Op, Vinmart, Bách hóa Xanh,…) and international (Lotte Mart, AEON, Central Group, Vinmart, Metro Cash & Carry,…)
Wholesale Market in Vietnam
“Wholesale” describes buying products in bulk from producers or wholesalers and then reselling them to merchants, other companies, or governmental clients. The market that each serves is a significant distinction between the bulk and retail markets. While wholesale businesses concentrate on supplying products to other companies, retail businesses focus on providing goods to individual customers.
Vietnam’s Retail Market Growth Potential
Market research firm Technavio estimated that the retail market in Vietnam will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.4% from 2022 to 2027. During this period, the market size is expected to increase by USD 163.49 billion. The growth of the market can be due to various factors, such as the rising demand for convenience food products, the expansion of the retail landscape, and the increasing popularity of private-label brands.
We made the most detailed step-by-step guide to setting up a business in Vietnam for investors, now available as an interactive checklist:
Upcoming Retail Trends in Vietnam
Convenience Food Products
One of the primary drivers behind the growth of Vietnam’s retail market is the increasing demand for convenience food products. These products are typically processed and ready-to-eat, requiring minimal preparation before consumption. With busy daily schedules and a rise in the number of working women, the demand for products such as processed meat and poultry is replacing traditional home-cooked meals that require significant preparation.
As both men and women have joined the workforce, the amount of time available for household chores has decreased due to busy work schedules. This has resulted in a decrease in traditional cooking methods and an increase in consumer preference for convenience food products and eating out. As a result, the demand for convenience food products has increased as they are easy to prepare and require less time. This trend is expected to drive the demand for convenience meat and poultry products, which are high in nutritional value, and contribute to the growth of the retail market in Vietnam.
Rapid Urbanisation in Vietnam
The growth of urban lifestyles is another key driver of the Vietnam retail market. With ongoing urbanization, the demand for contemporary retail channels like convenience stores and quick e-commerce penetration is rising among young urban customers. This trend is leading to a significant shift in the retail landscape. As online distribution channels eliminate the need for physical stores, inventory, and salespeople, retailers are focusing more on online sales to cater to the changing customer demands.
In addition to the growing urbanization trend, retailers in Vietnam are taking advantage of the significant increase in internet and smartphone penetration to offer their products online. This is a result of the changing demand trends among young urban customers who are seeking convenient shopping experiences that fit their hectic lifestyles. As a result, small-format stores such as tiny supermarkets have gained popularity among consumers looking for quick and easy shopping options.
Offline Retail Maintains Dominance
Despite the growth of online retail channels, physical channels still dominate the retail landscape in Vietnam. The offline segment is expected to see significant market share growth, with the expansion of brick-and-mortar stores, commercial centers, and supermarkets. With the rising middle class and their increasing disposable income, consumers are willing to spend more on shopping, which will also contribute to the growth of the offline retail segment in Vietnam.
Supermarkets and convenience stores offer everyday items that are commonly needed by consumers. However, supermarkets also provide household appliances. Meanwhile, convenience stores sell groceries, snacks, personal care products, and sometimes alcohol. Department stores offer a wide variety of consumer goods and have influenced shopping habits, particularly in cities.
The supply chain system in Vietnam is not well-established, causing difficulties for retailers to obtain products from suppliers, manage inventory, and deliver products to stores. These challenges result in delays, higher costs, and lower profits for retailers. Moreover, inadequate logistics standardization and infrastructure, such as poor transportation networks and storage facilities, make it difficult to maintain product quality and freshness, affecting the provision of high-quality products and services to consumers.
The logistics and transportation infrastructure in Vietnam is still developing and faces significant challenges such as traffic congestion, limited storage space, and inadequate transportation infrastructure. The inefficient logistics and supply chain management system can lead to longer lead times, higher costs, and reduced profitability for retailers, which could affect the growth of the retail market in Vietnam.
The world has undergone significant changes in recent years, leading to mounting inflationary pressures in several markets, including Vietnam. Global headwinds and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict have contributed to the rise in prices of gasoline and raw materials. Additionally, climate events such as floods, storms, and natural disasters are becoming more frequent and unpredictable, adding to the economic strain on the retail industry.
Vietnamese consumers are also taking more economical action due to growing global uncertainty. According to a survey conducted by VnExpress, 82% of the participants have implemented measures to reduce their expenses in the past three months, while only 3% have increased their expenditures. Consumers are holding back on buying expensive items and are focusing on saving for an uncertain future.
The retail industry in Vietnam is also facing increasing unemployment due to high-interest rates, the rising US dollar, increasing commodity prices, and decreasing consumer purchasing power. Key export markets such as the US, Japan, and the EU are experiencing reduced purchasing power, affecting industries like textiles, footwear, and aquaculture. This has led to significant job losses in Vietnam.
Global Giants Tapping Into Vietnam’s Opportunities
Central Retail first entered Vietnam in 2012, and since then, the company’s operations in Vietnam have grown steadily to make up a fifth of the group’s total revenue in 2020. The expansion plan of Central Retail in Vietnam includes opening new outlets across the country, as well as expanding its online sales channels. The company sees Vietnam as a key growth market due to its large population, growing middle class, and increasing consumer spending.
The company aims to generate 100 billion baht in sales by 2026, strongly focusing on growth and expansion in the Vietnamese market. This also aligns with their plan to double their footprint in the country by expanding their network to at least 710 stores covering 55 of the country’s 63 provinces. By positioning themselves as a central player in the lives of consumers in Vietnam, they are likely to strengthen their position in the retail market further and increase their market share.
Expanding the number of hypermarkets in Vietnam will likely provide Central Retail with a significant boost in revenue through offering a broader range of products and services than regular supermarkets, including electronics, furniture, and household appliances, among others. By increasing the number of hypermarkets to over 70, Central Retail can cater to a larger audience and also provide more job opportunities for the local people.
Lotte Group is keen on expanding its business operations in Vietnam after withdrawing from China. In addition to its existing 270 Lotteria restaurants and 15 Lotte Mart stores in the country, the company’s affiliates are also involved in developing large-scale shopping complexes and residential apartments in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This suggests that Lotte Group sees Vietnam as a key market for its business and is committed to expanding its presence there.
Lotte Group’s plan to build Eco Smart City in Ho Chi Minh City will feature a shopping mall, hotel, serviced apartments, office buildings, and a large-scale residential complex. In addition, Lotte Group is also set to complete the construction of Lotte Mall Hanoi in 2023, a large shopping complex in the capital city. A Lotte Shopping official stated that the retail business in Vietnam is experiencing a significant growth trend, and there is still ample room for further expansion.
Vietnam’s recent policy of allowing visa-free entry has benefited Lotte Group. A number of Lotte executives, including CEOs from various subsidiaries, have visited Vietnam to check on their companies’ business since the policy was implemented.
Lotte is not only expanding its retail and real estate businesses in Vietnam but also investing in supporting and developing Korean startups in the country through its venture capital firm. This could contribute to the growth and development of Vietnam’s startup ecosystem as well.
AEON, Asia’s largest retailer, has revealed plans to triple the number of malls it operates in Vietnam by 2025 as part of its expansion strategy to serve the needs of the growing middle-class population. According to a report by Nikkei Asia, Aeon plans to expand the number of malls it operates in Vietnam to 16, almost three times the current number. Aeon already has approximately 200 stores in Vietnam, including six shopping malls, which are located mainly in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the country’s largest cities. A new mall is set to open in the central town of Hue in 2024.
AEON Vietnam’s CEO aims to be flexible in the brand’s expansion efforts, varying the scale and specialty of its stores to target different shopping behaviors across the country. For instance, with cautious spending caused by the concerned working class, medium-sized supermarkets (around 5,000 sqm) will be the top choice.
Setting Up a Retail or Wholesale Business in Vietnam
To enter Vietnam’s retail market, companies can choose the M&A route for quick entry, while franchising is another option that doesn’t require setting up a retail company. If a company decides to establish a retail or wholesale company, it can set up a 100% foreign-owned retail company, as there is no official minimum requirement for such companies under the Vietnamese Company Law.
It’s worth noting that the timeline for setting up a foreign retail or wholesale company in Vietnam can vary depending on various factors, such as the completeness of the application documents, the complexity of the business model, and the efficiency of the registration process. In addition, the process may involve obtaining additional licenses or permits, depending on the specific products or services offered by the company. Therefore, it’s important to seek professional advice and guidance to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations and requirements.
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An international retail or wholesale business can be established in about one month. It is comparable to the procedure for registering global companies from different industries:
- Get an investment license.
- Get a business registration certificate.
- Wholesale businesses can begin operations once the company is established, even if the purchased goods do not need registration.
- Obtain a trading license (for retail companies)
- Before shipping, retail businesses must register their products, if necessary.
- Having obtained a trading license, retail businesses can start selling their goods.
Ready to Enter Vietnam Market?
Through establishing a retail or wholesale company in Vietnam, InCorp can assist you in realizing your entrepreneurial ambition.
After completing the register, you can move forward with the following procedures:
- Contribute your capital to the business
- Recruit employees
- Open a bank account.
- Register your products
- Apply for a retail trading license
Contact us today by completing the form below.
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