Over the past two years in Ho Chi Minh City, I have noticed an increasing sophistication in the presentation of new retail concepts. Most of this increase seems to be centered on new services to the growing numbers of middle-class families of Saigon. Like families in America, Vietnamese urban middle-class families have both the father and mother working outside the home. Childcare centers are readily available in the neighborhoods, so the next task is to spend quality time with children off work hours, and to make the home more comfortable with attractive decorations and furniture. Like hectic middle-class families elsewhere in the world, Vietnamese urban families are looking for services to take away some of the normal hassle of household maintenance.
While this first photo is not a store, it does illustrate the kind of service available now that otherwise would be the function of an extended family. The kind of service this company provides supplements what a family can provide and possibly gives working parents some piece of mind knowing they have provided some extra care for their young children.
It seems to offer a high-tech version of a public library, with story hours for small children, tutors for special educational subjects, musical instruction, and motor skills exercise (yoga for kids?). This new store is located adjacent to the coffeehouse I frequent daily, so I have been gaging its success over the past month it has been open. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be attracting many customers so far. As in America, there are economic limits to what middle-class families can outsource to others for a price. Perhaps it still too early in this market for this level of sophistication, or this location is too remote (it is not on a busy street).
Notice that the graphics and colors of the previous store are important in attracting attention. As I have said many times previously here with regard to houses and design touches, Vietnamese have an innate sense of good design, and it is taking good design or use of color and graphics to attract and hold their attention. While the gift shop in the following photo is not in an interesting building, the colors and graphics give it an air of sophistication that is increasingly important in this marketplace.
The idea of a gift shop is also new in the Vietnamese marketplace as middle-class families turn their attention beyond the basics of daily survival to enhancing the quality of their home or their relationships. This gift shop is not located where you might expect sophisticated boutiques to be located -- on Donh Khoi Street downtown where tourists congregate. This store is located in the midst of a middle-class neighborhood on Huynh Van Banh Street in the Phú Nhuạn District.