Modern Retailers in Transition Economies: The Case of Vietnam

Masayoshi Maruyama and Le Viet Trung, both of Kobe University, published “Modern Retailers in Transition Economies: The Case of Vietnam” on September 26th, 2011 in the Journal of Macromarketing’s OnlineFirst collection. Dr. Le Viet Trung kindly provided the following responses to the article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

The target audiences for this article are local and foreign retailers, policy makers and researchers in the retailing sector.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

In fact, retail distribution in Vietnam has attracted little attention from academics and modern retailing in Vietnam is still hardly understood. We have conducted several empirical studies of consumer attitudes and linked consumer perceptions to the development of modern retail format (i.e. supermarkets). However, the consumer perceptions of store image may differ from retailers’ perceptions of their store image, and it is very necessary to study the current situation from the perspective of modern retailers in order to know how retailers perceive their own stores and competitive positions.

Were there findings that were surprising to you?

 It is quite interesting to discover the main weak points that local retailers are facing and need to overcome. First, they lack the professional in the retailing sector. Almost human resources are not trained due to extremely lack of specialized education system. In addition, they are called modern retailers but not equipped with a modern management system i.e. more than two third did not apply information technology into management. Moreover, most local retailers are not even aware of the need to build and develop a trademark. Second, their logistic system is very poor, outdated, and much lowered than international standard. Their goods arrangements are much dependable on producer and wholesale traders. Third, their financial sources are very weak. Fourth, lack of co-operation and clear development strategy.

 How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

The findings of this study first provide a basis for understanding the situation of modern retailers in Vietnam and have significant implications for local and foreign retailers and policy makers, for whom the analysis of domestic modern retailers will be of particular interest. Local retailers and public policy makers are interested in evaluating the transition process in the modern retail sector, identifying weaknesses, and ensuring continued development. On the other hand, while many international retailers have been paying attention to Vietnam, they may have limited experience in the contemporary Vietnam retailing context and may have something to learn from the local retailers and benefit from the perspective of current system. Their understanding of the difficulties faced by local modern retailers may help them better position themselves in this developing market. In addition, there is little study focusing on providing valuable insights into modern retailers in Vietnam. Therefore, the findings in this study may motivate retail modernization researchers to systematically study the modern retail format in Vietnam.

How does this study fit into your body of work/line of research?

One of our main fields of focus is contemporary issues in marketing, such as retail modernization in Asian countries. This study fits into our ongoing line of research for the supermarket revolution in Asia.

 How did your paper change during the review process?

During the review process, we received many very useful comments and suggestions from three excellent reviewers and the editor Clifford J. Shultz II on our paper. We made sure to incorporate them in our revised paper. We also made some changes in the structure of the previous paper to make it better clarity and organization.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

In this study, we develop the micro perspective by presenting a qualitative study of the practices and performance of local modern retailers in a transitional economy – Vietnam. We focus on the micro-actions of micro-actors. Our paper may not directly connect to macromarketing. However, the analysis makes an important contribution to macromarketing issues, taking a bottom-up orientation that begins at the micro-level and drawing on the present situation of modern retailers to derive macro-level implications. We believe this kind of study will provide bases for researching macromarketing issues. On a broader level, this study calls to study the impact of marketing systems on society in the context of the larger socioeconomic systems in which they operate.

If we could go back and do this study again we should investigate the effects of modern retail on traditional retailers, farmers, producers, and suppliers, as well on employment opportunities. We will examine whether it is in the best interests of producers and consumers that local modern retailers are protected from international competition, or whether such retailers should be favored over the wet market and traditional stores? These problems should be examined in light of the lifestyles and shopping behaviors of consumers as well as the retailers’ interests.

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