Online shopping websites and mini-supermarkets offering inexpensive products have become popular with consumers, Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper reported on September 23.

Because of the sluggish economy, customers have tightened their budgets and have seen luxury brands as less indispensable.

In Hanoi , many essential commodities such as fish sauce and detergent are sold 5,000-15,000 VND cheaper online and in mini-marts than in big supermarkets. The customers enjoy even more discounts if they buy a large volume.

At big supermarkets in Hanoi such as Minh Hoa, Intimex and Fivimart, pressures from rental prices, labour costs and many other expenses have caused prices to increase, more than in mini-supermarkets and small grocery stores.

For household appliances, consumers have been buying online more frequently.

Hoang Thinh, a customer from Ho Chi Minh City ’s District 3, said that he bought a new camera in a retail shop in District 1's Nguyen Hue Street and a refrigerator on an online website.

He said the prices were more competitive online, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dong cheaper than similar ones in supermarkets.

Nguyen Minh Thu, deputy general director of Thien Hoa Furniture and Electronics Centre, said that online sellers have less to worry about than brick-and-mortar shops because they do not have to pay rentals, salaries for many salespeople and electricity fees.

Thu said, however, that consumers should only buy from reputable online sites.

Many shopping centres and supermarkets in HCM City have been offering discounts of 20-30 percent, but they have not attracted customers.

Diamond, Vincom, Parkson and Zen Plaza are all quiet. Many customers come just for window shopping, eating and drinking and theatre-going.

Likewise, Vincom, Trang Tien Plaza and Parkson in Hanoi have few customers despite deep discounts of 50-70 percent offered by most major brands.

Big electronics and household appliance centres are also falling into a "crisis" situation, including Nguyen Kim, Vien Thong A, Cho Lon, and Pico Plaza .

Many household appliance centres have reduced their inventory or have moved to suburban areas to cut down on expenses.

For instance, Nguyen Kim and Media Mart Electronics centres in Hanoi had to look to open a branch in Ha Dong District instead of Hoan Kiem District in the city centre.

In addition, nearly 15,000sq.m in Grand Plaza trade centre in Hanoi is empty because there are no renters.-VNA