Vietnamese traders to open grocery chain stores?

Vietnamese-owned grocery stores have become a feature of cities across the Czech Republic. They're cheap, stock good-quality produce, and they stay open late. And according to a report in the Czech Business Weekly, Vietnamese small traders could be about to consolidate their place on the Czech market by opening chains of grocery stores. Rob Cameron has this report.

They've mushroomed across the Czech Republic over the last decade, and there now seems to be one on every street. Vietnamese-owned grocery stores are cheap, stock fresh fruit and vegetables and other basic foodstuffs, the staff are friendly and cheerful, and unlike most Czech grocery stores, they don't close at six. It's no wonder then that they've become a huge success.

But they could be about to go one step further. According to a report in the English-language financial paper the Czech Business Weekly, Vietnamese traders are planning to open chains of grocery stores in small towns, in a bid to compete with supermarket giants like Tesco and Albert. The Vietnamese business community is famously secretive about their future plans, so it's difficult to confirm the reports. But Zdenek Juracka, deputy chairman of the Czech Confederation of Commerce and Tourism, says it would be a highly logical move.

"I don't have any direct evidence that such a chain of grocery stores is being formed. But I have heard these reports, and I certainly wouldn't be surprised. Vietnamese traders are being pushed out of the open-air markets and are settling in shops instead. So it's clear as daylight that when they've opened enough of them they'll turn them into chains."

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A number of big retailers like Delvita and the drugstore Droxi have announced in recent weeks they're leaving the Czech Republic to concentrate on more lucrative markets. So would a chain of Vietnamese grocery stores have a chance of success? Zdenek Juracka says it's too early to tell.

"I'd only be willing to judge that once they've opened. Once I've seen what kind of goods they've got on the shelves, what kind of choice they have and what kind of prices. Generally speaking, predicting whether a retail chain or supermarket will be a success is very difficult until they've actually opened."

The awarding-winning documentary Cesky sen proved that Czech shoppers will go to great lengths and travel great distances for a bargain. If Vietnamese traders do succeed in creating chains of cheap, well-stocked grocery stores right on people's doorsteps, they could well give the big international supermarkets a run for their money.