But now, those who want to entertain themselves by walking around such places, may get sadder, as the unexciting shopping atmosphere caused by falling demand is haunting those shopping spheres.
“Take this! The popular trend is belts with big buckles.”
“Take it please, we are selling at a discounted price, VND800,000 each. Normally we sell it for a few million dong.”
This was heard at the Polo booth selling belts, and wallets at discount prices at Parkson shopping centers on Le Thanh Ton Street in District 1. Two employees were trying to persuade a customer to buy the belt.
The customer excitedly took the belt out of the box, but then fitted it on her waist and turned around tentatively. The group started to laugh out loud.
The customer, who wore the uniform of an employee there, turned out to be an employee of a neighboring booth, Alain Delon.
Standing idle all day
The Alain Delon employee, Nguyet, and the two sellers, Son - salesman of Giovanni and Ly - salesman for Polo brand, said that after standing all day without guests, they didn’t know what else to do to but gather and rehearse their sales pitch.
Nguyet said in recent months, visitors to the center were getting fewer and fewer. The center is open from the morning, but only in the afternoon are there new customers. Many days she did not sell any products.
Nguyet, an employee working the shift from 3 pm until late evening, gets VND1.9 million a month. In addition to a base salary, sales staffs are also entitled to commissions based on sales of goods.
As the sales are shrinking, this money has also decreased. "Fortunately, I only have an afternoon shift. In the morning, I work for a roadside cafe on the nearby Ham Nghi Street, just enough to support my life here in Saigon," she said.
"Sales here suffer the most when there are no customers," said Nguyen Minh Hung, salesman for the company NinoMaxx. Hung explained: "Without customers, I cannot do anything else, from chatting, reading newspapers, listening to music, to surfing the net."
At a Calvin Klein clothing booth, salesman Nguyen Minh Phung said: "We are suffering from slow sales, with each shift seeing about 1-2 products sold."
Walking along the floor of the center, we are confronted with a series of booths with no customers. The salespeople there are huddled together brushing each other’s hair and chatting. In each corner, sometimes we caught employees eating snacks.
Only employees were found at the Superbowl shoping center on the same evening.
After the recent national holidays, walking around the shopping places, the gloomy situation seems more serious. Many booths, having launched big promotional programs, stating the discounts only valid for the holidays, have begun to extend the discount programs.
Before the holiday, the World Diamond booth offered 40-50 percent discounts for gold jewelry and precious stones. Employees then reminded the customers: “buy now before the program ends on May 2.”
But two days later, the program was still there. The salespeople said it will be lengthened for another two days.
Similarly, the fashion brand Papaya offered 50 percent price cuts from May 3-16, while the Mary & Jei booth offered a number of Korean-styled dresses at VND500,000-800,000 each, down over 50 percent of original price. Jeanswest booth did the same, a “super program” discounting 50 percent for all items from may 4-6.
Supermarket dienmay.com on Xo Viet Nghe Tinh Street in Binh Thanh District, occupying a wide frontage with tens of meters at the intersection of three major roads, hung the big banner "Supporting purchase power in “price storm”, special discount prices of up to 49 percent".
In the last few hundred square meters exhibiting machines and electrical products of all kinds, at the time of our visit, the store had 45 employees, but only 36 guests.
Many employees, stayed idle, talking on the phone to kill time. We went to the electronics counter, wanting a backup phone charger, and two employees immediately came to consult.
They [Nguyen Thi Hue and Nguyen Le Giang] said: "This product is currently enjoyed at a 50 percent discount. After buying it, if you aren’t satisfied within seven days, you can return it. In our 10-day program, you not only get discounted prices but can also select nice phone numbers, with a VND25,000 SIM card, you can get a free 10-minute intra-network call.”
With other customers, Giang and Hue also gave the same such breathtaking advice, but then a number of tourists leave without buying anything.
Without customer, Aussino booth's employee played with her cell phone.
Milk for children: prioritized, clothing: later
Currently, the largest store chains for home appliances, Nguyen Kim and Thien Hoa have also fallen into the slump, despite having launched several discount programs and promotions for several months. A manager at the home appliance system Thien Hoa, who has worked there for 7 years, said she has never seen such a state of slow sales.
At 7 pm on the weekend, the prime time for shopping, business center Now Zone saw a dozen guests on the first and second floor.
A Vera booth selling women’s underwear saw no customers, so when we came in to have a look at a nightgown with a 70 percent price reduction, from VND525,000 to VND199,000, the salesperson said: “We have all sizes. Just try them all and take the one you like."
This is strange because before that nightgowns and underwear were not eligible for trying on. The salesperson said: "Every year, I have suffered slow sales after the Tet, but the situation has never been as tragic as this year with sales dropping by almost 50 percent year on year.”
“The owner had to lay off some salespeople, and if it continues like this, I will lose mine in the coming days," she said.
A uniformed female customer of Hong Lam Co visited, picking up a few items before putting them down. She said: "Now, even milk for my children, I have to think twice, let alone clothing."
At the end of a day wandering in the shopping paradise with shimmering lighting displays, air conditioning causing numbness, and the scent of air freshener tingling our noses, we don’t feel happy.
Taking the escalator down, past the Giovanni stall, we saw Son sitting still, yawning, alone. “Sitting idle makes you so sleepy,” he said.