The value of retail sales of goods and services nationwide rose by 16 percent in 2012 to a total of 2,324 trillion VND (110.7 billion USD), according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

While the pace of growth was well below the average increase in recent years of about 20 percent, it was still viewed as acceptable in light of the current economic difficulties, which have shrunk purchasing power and caused consumers to tighten their belts, the GSO said.

GSO analysts predicted retail sales would speed up in the first quarter of the new year. Inventories in manufacturing and processing industries fell this year from 30 percent in the early months of 2012 to an average of 23 percent for the entire year, a pattern expected to repeat in the coming months, they said.

Global management consulting firm AT Kearney has also predicted that Vietnam 's retail sales would increase by 23 percent per year between now and 2014.

"This means the Vietnamese retail market will offer many opportunities for both domestic and foreign retail businesses," the company said in its report entitled Vietnam Retail Market Forecast to 2014.

The report noted that the shopping habits of Vietnamese consumers are rapidly changing, with more spending in modern retail outlets due to consumer concerns about convenience and health issues, with many consumers saying that more modern outlets gave them greater access to new products as well as cleaner facilities and greater confidence in food safety.

The country currently has 636 supermarkets, 120 shopping centres and over 1,000 convenience stores, but experts have said that this figure still does not meet demand in a market soon to reach 90 million people.
Domestic private enterprises accounted for 93.7 billion USD, or 85 percent of the nation's total retail sales this year, according to the GSO, an increase of 18.5 percent over the previous year.

Foreign-invested enterprises accounted for over 3.2 billion USD of total sales, an increase of 35 percent year-on-year. State-owned enterprises, meanwhile, saw total retail sales decline by 1.2 percent to just 13.75 billion USD.-VNA