Consignment in Vietnam delivers one big surprise

August 18, 2016

On our trip to Hong Kong in the early 90’s, my husband and I had to visit the local McDonalds. I wanted to see if there was any difference. As we stepped up to place our order, we noticed the workers behind the counter had all taken American names. The young lady who waited on us was “named” Telephone. It was delightful to see how our culture was impacting theirs. Consignment in Vietnam looks very familiar. The US has obviously had an influence because shops have names like Give Away, Second Chance and Consignista. Interestingly, the Facebook page for Consignista translates as the Tomato Shop. Just like here, their pages show accessorized outfits, busy shoppers pouring over racks of clothing and selfies of adorable girls in their new outfits. There is one surprising difference though.

Warehouses abound

With over 94 million residents, Vietnam has over a third of its population living in more urban areas. The country is known for its resourceful people. Literally, there are thousands of scavenger families who live by hand-sorting and recycling glass, plastic, cardboard and other items they find in local landfills. Resale shops fit right in. Consignment shops in Vietnam are called “warehouses” which distinguishes them from the more traditional and very crowded flea markets. Usually, a flea market is open at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. Conversely, the Facebook pages of most of the shops list their hours as 9 am to 8:30 pm Monday through Sunday. Doesn’t that sound exhausting? The only sane one is Goodwill which has 7:30 am to 5 pm as their hours.

Several of the shops allow consignors to price their merchandise for themselves or at least suggest a price. If the item sells within 5 days, the consignor receives 70% of the asking price. The longer it takes to sell, the greater the percentage the shop receives. Since we all have a tendency to put a higher value on our personal items, this pricing model could prove to be quite lucrative. In typical resale fashion, consignors receive payouts anywhere from 40 to 70 days after the item is sold. Some shops charge a service fee. Others offer concierge service where they’ll pick up items in homes. Many shops use charity events to eliminate left over merchandise. They live by the same old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

Consignment in Vietnam is growing quickly

Consignment in Vietnam is very busyLow rental fees, access to Wi-Fi and a multitude of shoppers makes Ho Chi Minh City one of the fastest growing areas for consignment. The shops intermingle with art stores, hairdressers, massage parlors and coffee shops. At Consignista, everything from kid’s clothes to furniture to wedding gowns are offered. It’s described as “Mountains of resale clothes and junk pile(d) up on a long wooden tables, on racks and in bamboo baskets for patrons to sift through. If you feel like rolling up your sleeves and digging for treasure, this store will satisfy your hunger for a scavenger hunt.” One shopper said she tried to sell a lot of her items from Russia, but many of the younger Vietnamese want made-in-Japan items only. Again, similar to American shops who only consign particular brands.

The one big surprise

Every article I read stressed how inexpensive shop rental fees are right now. Prices for merchandise or rental fees were listed by the VND vs. the US dollar. The Vietnamese Dong (VND) has a current exchange rate of 1 VND = 0.00004 US dollar. In other words, it would take 250 VND to equal a penny. When they list items being sold for VND 10,000 or VND 150,000, they are really talking about $o.4 or $6.60. It was a big surprise when Shop of Hope, a resale charity shop, listed a lovely barely used twin bed from the UK for 3,000,000 (VND). I wasn’t prepared for all those zeros! The price is actually $135 which is a real bargain considering it had originally been £400 or $526.

Consignment shops worldwide are growing in numbers. In every shop, workers are busily merchandising, sorting and pricing. All around the world, this incredible industry is helping families in need of extra income or inexpensive merchandise. With very little collateral, consignment provides shop owners an opportunity to open their business and at the same time, help the surrounding environment. Be sure, wherever you travel, to encourage and support a local resale shop. If you try consignment in Vietnam, make sure you’re prepared to be a million VND baby! If you enjoyed reading about consignment in Vietnam, read Consignment “Cubes” in Hong Kong.

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Director for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.