Modern retail outlets would continue to grow in Vietnam , Vietnam Retailers Association general secretary cum vice chairman Dinh Thi My Loan says.

Modern retail chains currently account for only 20 percent of distribution in the country. This is low, compared to the 90 percent in Singapore , 60 percent in Malaysia , 51 percent in China , and 34 percent in Thailand .

Speaking at a conference last weekend, Loan predicted that large supermarkets would peak at their highest development next year and then would slow in major big cities while smaller branches, convenient stores and shopping centres would become more popular.

The traditional retail sector, however, would continue to account for the lion's share of the retail market from now until 2015 because of its unique market niche.

Meanwhile, the success of the campaign to get rural dwellers to buy Vietnamese-made goods would spur the rural retail market to further develop, Loan said.

Despite economic difficulties, the country's total retail sales revenue for commodities and services last year jumped 24.5 percent against the previous year to 1,561 trillion VND (80 billion USD), according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

The retail industry annually contributes more than 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and employs more than 5.4 million workers, representing over 10 percent of the total workforce.

With a population of more than 80 million, Vietnam 's retail market remains very attractive to investors, especially those abroad.

A survey conducted in the fourth quarter of last year by auditing firm Grant Thornton Vietnam revealed that the Vietnamese retail market had lured more foreign investors than any other market, with 70 percent of correspondents agreeing that retail was a more promising investment field than education, real estate and healthcare.

However, the market still faced several challenges such as poor distribution systems, lack of overall development strategies and a lack of professionalism among local retailers, especially in corporate management and human resources, the association said./.