Given the on-going economic slowdown, many people are preferring to buy discounted goods as Tet (Lunar New Year) gifts.
Pham Huong Linh, who has been married for five years, finds it increasingly difficult to buy gifts for her husband’s family during the month before Tet.
"This is because my husband’s parents never accept any money from us," she said.
"A month ago, I saw that their rice cooker was very old, so I decided to buy them a new one. I knew that home equipment supermarkets always have sale promotions in days before Tet, so I waited. Recently we found that a supermarket had discounted a Toshiba rice cooker from 3 million dong (US$139) to 2 million, so I bought it immediately," she said happily.
Being a new daughter-in-law, Nguyen Thuy Bich said she had to figure out how many gifts would be considered sufficient by her husband’s relatives.
"Being a new bride, I will be introduced to all the relatives of my husband, so we had to buy some gifts for them. That is a tradition," she said.
"My mother-in-law suggested that we should gift each family at least one pack of cookies, a bottle of wine and a tea pack. I estimated that it would cost me about 4 million dong ($186), not including the lucky money to be gifted to the children," she said.
To save money, Bich visited different shops and bought pies for 130,000 dong per box. She also bought a big box of wine from a main dealer as it was heavily discounted. Thanks to the New Year promotional programmes that offered discounts of 15 per cent, she saved nearly 500,000 dong.
Nguyen Phuong Thao, a manager at a trading enterprise in Ha Noi, said her company often buys baskets of gifts sold at supermarkets to be gifted to clients and staff.
"But people often use these gifts as a decoration in their living rooms, and do not actually use them, partly because they are unsure of their quality," she said.
Odd gift choices
Besides the traditional gift baskets and expensive items, agricultural products and items from the countryside are also being chosen by many people as unique gifts for Tet.
For instance, Dong Tao chicken from the northern province of Hung Yen is chosen by many wealthy families as Tet gifts.
These chickens were historically offered as a tribute to kings because their meat is very delicious.
"A conspicuous feature of Dong Tao chicken is that they have big legs with thick scales," said Vu Hung, a seller.
"The price is 300,000 dong to 400,000 dong per kilo, on average, and for a roster, it is more than 1 million dong. A pair weighing 9 to 10kg is sold for 4 million dong," he said.
Another food item gifted to kings is Anh Vu fish, believed by many people to bring good luck for the New Year. Thus, although the price is 2.5 to 3 million dong per kilo, many people still choose this fish as a gift for Tet.
A shop in Ba Dinh District of Ha Noi sells the fish for 2.9 million dong per kilo.
"This fish is transported to Ha Noi from the south and is a popular Tet gift among the well-off. To keep the fish alive till it reaches Ha Noi by car during the 1,200 kilometre-trip, its selection and care is paid much attention to, and transporters have to regularly stop so that the fish can rest," said fish seller Nguyen Tuan Anh.
Along with livestock, fruits are also considered indispensable for Tet in Vietnamese families.
Grapefruit shaped to look like gourds is chosen by many people.
This year, the growers have made grapefruit appear more attractive by engraving on it in lucky scripts or engraving images of a coin, or a gold bullion.
Grapefruit is ordered by customers as New Year gifts and sellers said grapefruit prices this year are much more expensive than before, ranging between 100,000 dong and 200,000 dong, reflecting a 5 to 10 per cent increase.
A normal gourd-shaped grapefruit is sold for 700,000 dong, but a fruit engraved with a gold bullion shape, or with lucky scripts costs 1.2 million dong. People often buy a pair of grapefruits, which can cost them nearly 3 million dong.
Besides the grapefruit pool, another gift for Tet are watermelons shaped as a square or as a bar of gold. The number of such melons available in the market is not high, because, it is difficult to care these fruits into such shapes.
Sellers pointed out that shaping watermelons into gold bullion is very hard, with the success rate pegged at about 40 per cent. A pair of such melons cost about 3 to 5 million dong.
Elsewhere, numerous fashion clothing stores have hung large signs saying "Big sale off" for ready-to-wear clothing.
"Buying these clothes as gifts for relatives and children in the countryside is a good idea because this type of clothing is liked (by them) so much," said a housewife, Tran Hong Van.