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Saigon Tax Center sudden shutdown: shoppers smile, traders cry

Thousands of shoppers flocked a shopping mall in downtown Ho Chi Minh City earlier this week to grab the chance to buy goods at discount prices of up to 50 percent, while sellers bewail over the steep losses incurred from bargaining away their stuff.

Thousands of shoppers flocked a shopping mall in downtown Ho Chi Minh City earlier this week to grab the chance to buy goods at discount prices of up to 50 percent, while sellers bewail over the steep losses incurred from bargaining away their stuff.
Thousands of shoppers flocked a shopping mall in downtown Ho Chi Minh City earlier this week to grab the chance to buy goods at discount prices of up to 50 percent, while sellers bewail over the steep losses incurred from bargaining away their stuff.

About 200 shop owners at Saigon Tax Trade Center in District 1 are selling at a loss to empty their stocks before moving out of the 130-year-old trade center by the end of September.

The shopping mall, managed by state-run Saigon Trading Group (Satra), will be shutdown in October to make room for the construction of a 40-story skyscraper, and the construction of a part of a metro line station.

The sudden grand sale attracted thousands of shoppers, who rushed to the venue in hope to bring home high-quality stuffs at unbelievably low prices.

Bao Khanh, owner of a handicraft shop located on the third floor, said relocating stores is a tough challenge for most of shop owners like her, as they cannot afford the new rental fee could be VND30 million (US$1,415) or higher a month.

“We plan to move to a shopping mall on Le Thanh Ton Street, but the monthly rental fee is too high to afford,” Khanh told VnExpress.

“We tried to bargain but they didn’t even listen to us, saying they have a fixed price and we had no choice.”

The lady, who used to own a shop at the International Trade Center (ICT) in District 1 before it was completely destroyed in a rough fire in October 2002, has relocated her shop several times before settling down at Saigon Tax three years ago.

As Khanh was talking to a VnExpress correspondent, two young men approached, asking to buy the goods on sale, and even bargained to lower the discounted prices.

“I know they will sell [the goods] at their own shops at much higher prices, but all I want now is to vend the stuffs as soon as possible to meet the deadline,” the seller shared, adding she already suffered massive losses.

All the goods including scarf, clothes, jewelry, silk, handicraft bags, shoes, and wallets of such well-known brand as Converse, Guy Laroche, Levi’s, which were previously available at exorbitant prices, have had unbelievable low price these days.

The grand sale has attracted not only young local people but also the elders and foreign shoppers.

Relocation options

The center’s management board and shop owners previously agreed that the owners would be informed of its demolition at least six months before any leveling work.

But the board could only notify shop owners of their required relocation on August 12 because of a late notification from higher authorities.

To make up for this lateness to some extent, the management board has decided to exempt shop owners from two months’ rental fees.

The board has also proposed that Satra give those adversely affected by the sudden displacement the rights to have a place in the new shopping center inside the planned skyscraper.

The skyscraper will be named Tax Plaza, which includes a shopping center, offices for lease, exhibition and convention areas, conference rooms, and underground parking facilities that can house about 2,100 cars and motorcycles.

For now, they can choose to relocate to other Satra shopping centers at C6 Pham Hung Street in District 8 or Saigon Supermarket in District 10.

Saigon Tax Trade Center is a long-standing and renowned commercial center with a total floor area of 15,000 square meters, located in the heart of District 1.Built in 1880, the building, originally named Les Grands Magazins Charner, bears the characteristics of French colonial architecture like those found on such constructions as Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, Saigon Opera House, Reunification Palace and the seat of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee.

According to Satra’s website, Les Grands Magazins Charner sold luxury items imported mainly from Britain, France and other Western countries to the elite in Saigon, former name of Ho Chi Minh City, and rich landowners in provinces in the southern part of Vietnam.

In the 1950s, world-renowned brand Hermès even made its debut in Vietnam at Le Grands Magasins Charner.