While sales at traditional markets in HCM City have plunged in the last 10 years, supermarkets have been growing at 19-27 percent a year in that period.

Market research companies say consumers prefer shopping at supermarkets to traditional markets these days.

The change in the shopping habits has strongly influenced the nature of goods sold at supermarkets, with the focus switching to food.

Bui Hanh Thu, deputy general director of Sai Gon Co.op, said fresh food sales are growing at 40-50 percent a year and account for 18 percent of Sai Gon Co.opMart's total revenues.

The supermarket sells more than 1,000 fresh food items, she said, adding that it is mulling an increase in the supply of semi-processed and cooked foods to meet demand.

Nguyen Nguyen Phuong, head of the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade's trading management division, said supermarkets have three advantages over traditional markets.

Firstly, products' quality and quantity are always ensured because their origin, production and expiration dates, and price are all clearly stated on the packaging.

Secondly, they offer more choices to customers.

Thirdly, all supermarkets have links with producers to ensure after-sale services like delivery, installation and periodic maintenance.

Many shoppers who are polled said that they shifted to supermarkets because their products were not only hygienic but also often cheaper than at traditional markets.

To ensure a stable source of goods at competitive prices, most supermarkets tie up with agricultural cooperatives and farmers by investing capital, providing production techniques, and after-harvest technologies and ensuring an outlet for their produce.

Producers, distributors, and consumers all benefit from this.

As a pioneer of this method, Metro Cash&Carry has trained more than 20,000 farmers and fishermen in safe and sustainable agricultural production over the last 10 years.

It worked with local authorities and agriculture and rural development departments to start training courses for fish farmers.

Thu of Sai Gon Co.op said more than half of fresh food products at Co.opMart is the result of cooperation with cooperatives and farmers.

Sai Gon Co.op provided capital and production techniques to the cooperatives and farmers, enabling it to ensure a stable source of goods and stable prices.

It has also enabled farmers add value to their produce, thus improving their incomes.

Supermarkets are now focused on developing supply chains for products and on controlling quality, hygiene, and food safety.

As of last year HCM City had 140 supermarkets, 25 shopping malls, and more than 500 convenience stores.

Their combined revenues accounted for 35 percent of the city's total retail sales compared to 15 percent in 2007.-VNA