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Hà Nội’s flourishing street market economy

Update: April, 11/2017 - 09:08
The Bắc Qua street market. Many people still prefer buying food at these street markets rather than modern markets in the capital. - VNS Đoàn TÙng
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Modern markets were built in Hà Nội to make shopping more hygenic, pleasurable and convenient, putting many traders and merchants in a large, well-lit, air-conditioned space under one roof. Paradoxically, modern markets are often deserted, while street markets (chợ cóc) are always full of buyers and sellers.

A report by the Lao động (Labour) newspaper describes the scene on a typical morning in the mordern market within the Hàng Da Trade Centre in the capital’s central Hoàn Kiếm District, with only a few kiosks open although it was 11 am.

A trader there told the reporter that other traders had moved elsewhere to do business, and she only stayed because she provides food for several local restaurants.

The same situation was recorded in Chợ Mơ Trade Centre in Trương Định Ward of Hai Bà Trưng District. A few kiosks were open, some were closed and some had hung a “For Rent” sign.

A food seller named Hiếu said his business only made a small profit. After paying rent of VNĐ650,000 (US$28), hygiene fees of about VNĐ200,000 ($9), electricity and water bills of VNĐ1million ($44) per month, not much was left.

Phùng Mạnh Tuấn, head of Chợ Mơ Trade Centre’s Management Board, said some 535 small traders had left since the mordern market was officially opened in 2014, accounting for 47 per cent of the total who traded in the old market on the site.

Traders cited two main causes for the exodus from the modern markets. First, people often prefer to buy produce from nearby traders who set up their stalls on the sidewalks or in temporary markets because they don’t have to drive there and pay for parking. Second, the prices of commodities in modern markets are often higher than in street markets because sellers have to pay a range of fees.

These factors are believed to be hindering the development of modern markets in the capital.

Street markets busy

In the meantime, street markets are bustling with buyers and sellers all day.

A street vendor selling vegetables near Hàng Da Trade Centre said she left the modern market within the centre two years ago because she could not afford to pay fees. She has been earning well since then by selling vegetables in a street market.

A small trader selling vegetables on a sidewalk near Chợ Mơ Trade Centre said he had many customers and his business was running smoothly.

The city’s recent campaign to remove vendors, beer joints and cafes from sidewalks does not appear to be making a dent in these ad hoc stalls. The vegetable seller near Cho Mo said he had temporarily moved his business to his house. When the campaign subsides, he would return, he said.

Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Lan, a resident living  near the trade centre, said she preferred to buy at street markets. “It’s convenient, it doesn’t take time to take my motorbike to a parking area and pay VNĐ 5,000 (US 20 cents),” she said.

Authorised agencies ’surrender’

“The problem is that everything has to follow rules of supply and demand," said Tuấn, head of Chợ Mơ Trade Centre’s Management Board.

“It’s easy to understand why small traders choose pavements or street markets to do their business. Because they can sell their goods there, they can earn a living."

Tuấn explained that at first, when the modern markets were opened, the management board exempted small traders from paying fees for the first three months. Things seemed to be okay, but after the three months, they still left.

Nguyễn Hoàng Dũng, vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Trương Định Ward, also said he knew about the deserted modern market and busy street market near the centre. However, he failed to point out solutions. — VNS

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