Domestic and foreign distributors are flocking to invest in more supermarkets and commercial centres in the provinces rather than just the major cities in the country.

With the launch of its supermarket in Phan Rang city in southern Ninh Thuan province recently, Sai Gon Co-op now has 18 supermarkets in the provinces, in addition to the 20 others it has in the major urban centres in HCM City , Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho.

Sai Gon Co-op said that it planned to open supermarkets in most provinces and cities by 2015.

Citimart and Maximark have adopted a similar game plan, investing in supermarkets and commercial complexes in the southern provinces of Khanh Hoa and Dong Thap.

Foreign distributors have also taken the opportunity to enter the provinces to enlarge their market share in Vietnam .

German retail giant Metro Cash&Carry recently launched its first wholesale retail centre in southern Dong Nai province’s Bien Hoa city after trading successfully in HCM City, Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho.

Randy Guttery, Metro Cash&Carry Vietnam’s executive director, said Metro planned to open more supermarkets in other provinces to meet local demand.

A source, who declined to be named, also said that Metro wanted to open another centre in central Binh Dinh province.

After 11 years in the domestic market, Big C, which comes under France ’s Casino groups, recently opened a supermarket in central Hue city following the opening of a supermarket in southern Dong Nai province. It also has seven supermarkets in HCM City , Hanoi , Hai Phong and Da Nang .

Industry insiders said supermarket chains had previously focused on just the major city of HCM City, Hanoi , Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho ldue to the high consumption demand. However, with increased competition, they were now turning to the provinces.

Nguyen Ngoc Hoa, Sai Gon Co-op executive board chairman, said his co-op opened its first provincial supermarket in central Quy Nhon city roughly four years ago when supermarkets were still an alien concept to local people.

Now, he said, things were far easier as local consumers were paying more attention to quality and hygiene than price.
“As consumption demand in the provinces has grown significantly, investment in supermarkets and commercial centres in the provinces has become more attractive to distributors,” Hoa said./.