Vietnam is seeing a mini-boom in mini-marts, with local and foreign players beefing up their presence as shoppers eye easy buys while a robust economy increases spending power.
Convenience store numbers have jumped more than 260% since 2012, with at least 533 up and running by the end of last month, according to data from the companies.
Market watchers say Vietnamese consumers are increasingly willing to pay a little more for the convenience of mini-marts, which open for longer hours and are found in more and more locations.
“There is a lot of room for growth. In other countries, convenience stores are about 20% of market. Here it is less than 10%,” said CBRE Vietnam Executive Director Richard Leech.
Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, which has opened 93 Vinmart stores since the end of last year, recently said it would double its 2016 target to 2,000 outlets.
In July, 7-Eleven , which has 8,469 outlets in Thailand and 1,407 in the Philippines, signed a master franchise agreement with Seven System Vietnam to develop and operate 7-Eleven stores.
Japan’s FamilyMart said it aims to increase its Vietnam stores to more than 100 in 2016, citing customer growth of 120% annually.
The mini-mart boom sharply contrasts with that of Vietnam’s supermarkets, which expanded around 3% to 313 stores in 2014 from 304 in 2012, according to market research firm Nielsen.
Its poll showed a fifth of Vietnamese now used convenience stores often, although fresh markets remained the preferred channel with 62% of shoppers using them. Broader expansion of the middle class and retail, however, means mini-marts face plenty of competition.
“Convenience stores must compete fiercely with other retail channels which are also growing dramatically, especially online shopping,” said Dinh Thi My Loan, head of the Association of Vietnam Retailers.
An employee checks a customer’s bill inside a Circle-K mart in Hanoi.