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How to Open a Retail Store in Vietnam: Ultimate Guide 2024

Shopping at retail stores in Vietnam is becoming increasingly popular as wages rise and the variety of products on offer expands. This presents a range of opportunities for foreign retail store chains.

Opening a retail store in Vietnam for foreign firms, however, is not always easy. Not only are there a number of technical requirements that need to be met, but Vietnam has also developed its own retail store culture, putting its own twist on retail store shopping experiences.

Understanding the nuances of Vietnamese retail store culture and the complexities of business establishment procedures in advance of entering the market can therefore be crucial to the success of a new retail store or chain of retail stores in Vietnam.

Retail stores in Vietnam: Overview

From the products they offer to the store layout to the payments they accept and the customer services they provide, retail stores in Vietnam can be a little different to elsewhere in the world. This section outlines a few of these key differences and notable features foreign retailers should be aware of in Vietnam.

Vietnamese consumers like discounts.

Vietnamese consumers are big fans of discounts and bargains. Bargaining over goods in general is a national pastime and this carries over into shopping experiences more broadly. Vietnam’s burgeoning middle class tends to look long and hard at prices and look for extra value. It’s not uncommon at retail stores for special gifts to be offered as bonuses for buying a particular item. These will often be taped together and are not necessarily congruent–it’s not uncommon to see a can of Coke taped to a toothbrush but it’s more likely a bowl taped to a box of cereal.

Vietnamese consumers like personalised service.

One of the key differences between Western and Vietnamese retail stores is the level of service. Whereas in Western countries retail establishments have more of a self-serve format, in Vietnam it is common for a retail employee to help a customer in a one-on-one format. Particularly in clothing stores, staff tend to approach customers quickly and stand nearby for support when needed. 

Vietnamese consumers like to shop online.

Last-mile delivery services in Vietnam can be very cheap through delivery apps and as a result, a huge e-commerce industry has emerged. It’s common for consumers to buy just about everything online from fruits and vegetables to high-end clothing. This is done through a series of e-commerce platforms as well as social media, particularly Facebook and TikTok.

Vietnam is moving toward cashless payments but not cards per se.

Vietnam’s banking industry has developed a QR code system whereby users can scan a QR code and make a direct bank transfer. This can be time-consuming and often causes delays at the checkout. The benefit to consumers and retail stores is that they save on fees and transfers are instant.

Cash is still widely accepted in Vietnam and in many cases preferred. There are generally few problems accepting large notes at most retail stores. This is as opposed to using a VND 500,000 (US$20.30) at a local wet market which can be challenging for local traders to break.

Card payments are not as popular in Vietnam as they are elsewhere in the world. The aforementioned QR code system may be part of the reason why but also credit cards have never really gained traction with Vietnamese preferring to spend only what they have.

Establishment procedures for retail stores in Vietnam

Retail stores in Vietnam with foreign ownership are generally established as a limited liability company either as a wholly owned foreign enterprise or a joint venture with a Vietnamese partner. This article provides a broad overview of establishment procedures with a more thorough, detailed technical guide available here: How to Form a Company in Vietnam: Technical Guide 2024

Wholly foreign-owned retail stores in Vietnam

A wholly foreign-owned retail store in Vietnam allows a foreign investor complete control over a company’s operations. It is, however, generally more costly and time-consuming.

Specifically, before they can apply to register a business, foreign entrepreneurs who want to set up a wholly foreign-owned company will need to first apply for an Investment Registration Certificate (IRC) which they do not have to do with a local partner.

An IRC is basically required to ensure that foreign firms are not engaging in business in restricted or forbidden business lines. The conditions for approving an IRC are outlined in the Law on Investment which also states that IRCs should be issued in between 5 to 15 days. In reality, however, it is usually around 30 to 45 days.

Joint venture retail stores in Vietnam

With a local partner foreign business persons do not need to file for an Investment Registration Certificate, but rather the Vietnamese partner establishes the company and the foreign investor buys a share. In this sense, working with a local business partner can considerably reduce setup costs and application processing times. 

Joint ventures, however, can be risky. A mismatch in work ethics and management styles can cause conflict in the workplace, particularly in cross-cultural settings. For example, whereas in Vietnam it is common to financially penalise staff for arriving late or for using their phone during work hours, in Western countries, this would be unacceptable. Understanding these little nuances of cross-cultural communication, in a joint venture environment, may be crucial to a business’s success.

Economic Needs Tests (ENT)

Note that, retail outlets may need to complete an economic needs test. This only applies to the second retail establishment, however, this is worth keeping in mind in the planning stages. An ENT basically requires a retail business to prove that it is both needed in the geographical space in which it intends to operate and that it will not negatively impact the local community. A  decision on an ENT is generally made by the local government.

That said, the ENT has been removed for investors in member states of some international agreements. For parties to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example, an ENT is no longer required. It is also not required when the retailer intends to lease space in a shopping centre or mall.

Visas for foreign retail store owners, operators in Vietnam

Foreign business persons who establish a retail store in Vietnam are likely to qualify for investor visas. The length and cost of an investor visa will depend on the value of the investment. There are four categories of investor visas. They are:

Vietnam investor visas

Investor visas in Vietnam are known as DT visas (DT stands for đầu tư which translates to investor). There are four types of investor visas which vary in length depending on the value of the investment.

Investor visas in Vietnam 2023

CodeDescriptionLength
DT1Investments over VND 100 billion (US$4.15 million), or for investment into ‘prioritised’ sectors, professions, or areas of Vietnam.5 years
DT2Investments between VND 50 billion (US$2.07 million) and VND 100 billion (US$4.15 million), or for investment into ‘prioritized’ sectors, professions, or areas of Vietnam.5 years
DT3Investor visa: issued for investors with total investment capital between VND 3 billion (US$125,000) and VND 59 billion (US$2.07 million).3 years
DT4Investor visa: issued for investors with total investment capital less than VND 3 billion (US$125,000).12 months

Source: Vietnam Visas for Doing Business in Vietnam: Quick Read 2024 

Choosing a location for a retail store in Vietnam

Choosing the right location for any business can be the difference between success and failure. Firms and individuals looking to establish a retail store in Vietnam should consider the best market for their style of retail store–high-end retail stores are better places in tier-one cities like HCMC or Hanoi, whereas more budget-friendly retail stores will likely do better in smaller cities.

Market research

Market research is essential when choosing a location for a new retail store in Vietnam. Given the number of retail stores in Vietnam’s biggest cities and the propensity for consumers to frequent establishments closest to their home or place of work, the right location depends greatly on the individual establishment and therefore offering broad advice can be difficult.

It should be noted, however, that in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City there are specific enclaves in which the bulk of foreigners live. In Hanoi that area is known as West Lake and in Ho Chi Minh City it’s District 1. Boutique retail stores may find these areas easier to penetrate with a more Western style of shopping experience, with more Western products. In other areas, retail stores may need to double down on products catering more to local tastes.

Retail real estate rents in Vietnam

Rental costs can be a significant factor in choosing the right location and these will depend on a broad range of factors, however, the following ballpark figures for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from CBRE may be useful as a rough guide as to what to expect.

Average rent, ground/first floor, per-square-metre

Q4 2023Q1 2024
CBDnon-CBDCBDnon-CBD
Hanoi16230163.230.6
Ho Chi Minh City2405124053.3

June 4, 2024: Updated retail rents with Q1 2024 data

Source: CBRE Insights and Research

Commercial leases in Vietnam

The Law on Real Estate Business 2014 regulates leases broadly and this includes commercial leases. A typical lease agreement in Vietnam will have several key features:

  • The length of the lease: In Vietnam a commercial lease typically runs for about five years;
  • The payment terms: How often rent payments will be made and how. Typically, rent payments are made quarterly, however, they can also sometimes be monthly, every six months, or yearly; and
  • The division of responsibilities: who is responsible for what and when between the landlord and the tenant.

These are just the broad strokes but are also the most pivotal components of the agreement. Other aspects of the agreement can generally be negotiated between the landlord and the tenant without too much direction from the real estate law.

Key regulations for retail stores in Vietnam

There are several key regulatory requirements that foreign entrepreneurs may need to satisfy when opening a retail store in Vietnam. This will depend on the products they intend to sell but generally, these apply to foods and beverages for consumption.

Getting a food safety certificate

With respect to the Law on Food Safety, a retail store that intends to sell foods that are not prepackaged will need to apply for a food safety certificate per Decree No. 15/2018/ND-CP

To apply for a food safety certificate, an application must be completed and submitted to the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The application should include:

  • A photocopy of the firm’s business registration certificate.
  • A written request from the business owner for food safety certification.
  • Health certificates of any staff coming into contact with food in the establishment.
  • Details of the equipment, facilities, and appliances and assurance that they comply with food safety requirements.
  • Staff food safety training certificates.

Retail stores in Vietnam that sell food without a food safety certificate may be hit with a fine of up to VND 40 million (US$1,662).

Furthermore, a failure to adhere to the standards set out in the Law on Food Safety could result in administrative fines of up to VND 100 million (US$4,156).

Getting a liquor license in Vietnam

Retail stores in Vietnam that wish to sell alcohol will need to apply for a liquor licence. 

The sale and production of alcohol in Vietnam are generally covered by the Alcohol Law. Specific licensing requirements for retail stores that wish to sell alcohol in Vietnam are outlined in Article 23 of Decree No: 105/2017/ND-CP (with some amendments in Decree 17/2020/ND-CP. New retail stores need to apply to the Economic Department or the Economic and Infrastructure Department of the district People’s Committee.

The application for a  liquor licence should include:

  • An application form as outlined in the decree.
  • A copy of the business registration certificate.
  • A copy of the lease contract and documentary proof the business has the legal right to use the premises.
  • A copy of a contract or agreement with an alcohol producer, distributor, or wholesaler.

An application for a liquor licence in Vietnam attracts an appraisal fee of VND 1,200,000 (US$49). There is also an issuing fee of VND 200,000 (US$8). This is outlined in Circular 168/2016/TT-BTC

Getting a licence to sell tobacco in Vietnam

If a retail store wishes to sell tobacco products as well, it will need a separate licence. This is governed by Decree No: 67/2013/ND-CP with a series of amendments in subsequent decrees.

To obtain a licence to sell tobacco products in Vietnam, retail store proprietors must apply for a licence from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Their application should include:

  • Application form for a licence to distribute tobacco products (there is no specific format for this outlined in the decree).
  • A copy of the bar’s Enterprise Registration Certificate or Business Registration Certificate and Tax Code Certificate;
  • A copy of a contract or agreement with a tobacco producer, distributor, or wholesaler.
  • The business results of the enterprise if the business is applying for the licence to be reissued or amended.

As with liquor licences, an application for a licence to sell tobacco in Vietnam attracts an appraisal fee of VND 1,200,000 (US$49). There is also an issuing fee of VND 200,000 (US$8) per Circular 168/2016/TT-BTC

Hiring retail workers in Vietnam

Entry-level retail store workers in Vietnam are generally paid around minimum wage. Minimum wages in Vietnam are different for each of one of four key regions. These are outlined in Conclusion 83-KL/TW which came into effect on July 1 2024.

Vietnam minimum wage from July 1, 2024

MonthlyHourly*
RegionVNDUS$VNDUS$
14,960,000$19525,306$0.99
24,410,000$17322,500$0.88
33,860,000$15219,694$0.77
43,450,000$13617,602$0.69

*Hourly rate calculated on 196 hours per month

See also: Minimum Wage in Vietnam 2024: Your Questions Answered

Retail store manager wages in Vietnam

Whereas entry-level staff are paid close to minimum wage, managers of retail stores in Vietnam can earn substantially more. According to labour recruitment firm Indeed, the average wage of a store manager in Vietnam is VND 12,017,493 (US$472.29). Note that Indeed’s data is taken from a relatively small pool, however, job listings for retail store managers do tend to give a wage range from VND 10 to 15 million (US$410 to US$623).

See also: Average Salary in Vietnam 2024: Quick Guide

Employee entitlements and benefits in Vietnam

A standard work week in Vietnam is 48 hours. An employee can work up to 40 hours of overtime in a month not exceeding 200 hours of overtime in a year. There is, however, an exception for some workers in fields like manufacturing whereby they can work up to 300 hours of overtime in one year.

Workers in Vietnam are entitled to 12 days of annual leave a year. There are also six public holidays in Vietnam that vary in length but all up give workers an additional 11 days off. 

Employees in Vietnam are also entitled to social and unemployment insurance. Employers generally need to contribute the equivalent of 21.5 percent of a local employee’s wage to these two social safety nets whereas employees contribute 10.5 percent. For foreign employees, it is only 20.5 percent and 9.5 percent.

See also: Vietnam’s Labour Law for Foreign Firms in 2024: Quick Read  

Intellectual property protection

Protecting intellectual property in Vietnam can be challenging. It is common for local businesses to use brand names and logos of other more well-established businesses. As of 2022, Vietnam remained on the Office of the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report which labelled IP enforcement as ‘a serious challenge’ for the burgeoning nation. That said, it is a signatory to most international intellectual property treaties and it has made a number of key reforms in recent years to strengthen IP protections.

Trademarking a retail store’s intellectual property in Vietnam

With respect to establishing a retail store in Vietnam, there are a number of items of intellectual property that retail store owners may want to consider trademarking. A unique product name, a brand name, or a company logo could all be the subject of a trademark application.

Note that Vietnam is a signatory to the Madrid Agreement and therefore, firms with trademarks approved in other countries that are also party to the agreement will automatically have their trademarks recognised in Vietnam.

Likewise, businesses that register a trademark in Vietnam will automatically have protection in the other countries party to the agreement.

Filing a trademark application in Vietnam

In order to apply for a trademark a firm must first complete an application that includes:

  • A trademark registration declaration,
  • An image of the trademark between 3cm x 3cm and 8cm x 8cm,
  • A list of products and services that are to be registered;
  • A power of attorney, if necessary, and
  • Proof of payment of all necessary fees and charges.

Trademarks in Vietnam are then filed with the Intellectual Property Office of Vietnam (IPVN). It can take 12 to 18 months for a trademark application in Vietnam to be approved.

Importing goods into Vietnam 

Vietnam produces a range of products from fruits, vegetables, and meat to clothing, shoes, and steel. However, there is still a huge dearth of items compared to those available in more developed markets. That said, there is an appetite for foreign products it’s just that retailers may find they need to import these items.

This can be done fairly easily, however, with Vietnam’s logistics network relatively well developed and equipped to handle the import and export of most goods.

See also: How to Start an Import Business in Vietnam: Ultimate Guide 2024

Fees and taxes for retail stores in Vietnam

New businesses will need to register with the General Department of Taxation in order to pay their taxes and ensure they are tax-compliant. There are also a number of recurring fees and taxes that new retail store owners in Vietnam should be aware of.

Business licence fees

Limited liability companies in Vietnam are required to pay a business licence fee annually. This must be paid by January 30. These fees depend on the registered capital of the firm.

Business licence fees, 2023

Registered CapitalFee (VND)
Less than 10 billion VND (US$415,671)2,000,000 (US$83)
Greater than 10 billion VND (US$415,671)3,000,000 (US$124)

Source: Decree No. 20/VBHN-BTC

Value-Added tax (VAT)

The specifics of the VAT are outlined in Law No. 13/2008/QH12. Broadly, this is a consumption-based tax on goods and services in Vietnam. It is generally charged at the point of sale for retail businesses. There are some exceptional circumstances in which VAT declarations and payments can be made quarterly, however, payments are usually made to the General Department of Taxation each month. VAT is generally charged at 10 percent of the sale price, though for select specialty items, it is only 5 percent, and some items are also exempt.

Personal Income Tax (PIT)

PIT is levied on a worker’s wages in Vietnam. The amount to be collected is on a sliding scale, the more a worker earns the more PIT they pay. Employers are required to collect PIT on an employee’s wages and pay said tax to the General Department of Taxation each month. If approved by the authorities an enterprise may be able to make tax payments quarterly instead. The PIT is governed by Law No. 04/2007/QH12.

Corporate Income Tax (CIT)

CIT is the tax a company pays. The standard CIT payment is 20 percent of assessable income, however, on large investments foreign firms have been known to receive tax breaks. This tax is paid yearly though firms can make payments quarterly. The CIT is governed by Law No. 14/2008/QH12

Getting help opening a retail store in Vietnam

There is a broad range of tax agents, lawyers, market research firms, human resource professionals, and all-in-one consultancies in Vietnam that can assist entrepreneurs in opening a retail store in Vietnam→Let us connect you with a market entry expert.

Furthermore, for up-to-date information on what is happening in Vietnam’s retail store industry sector at any given time, make sure to subscribe to the-shiv.

Latest updates

  • July 2, 2024: Updated minimum wage; added section on importing products.

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