HANOI: Busy Vietnamese consumers are increasingly likely to shop and travel during Têt Nguyên Dan, the annual lunar new year holiday, even as commentators have questioned its impact on the economy.
A survey by researchers Epinion, reported on Vietnamnet, found that many people missed traditions associated with the festival, such as gathering and cooking collectively or visiting teachers, with growing commercialisation of the holiday seen as a factor.
Spending on fast-moving consumer goods almost doubles in the run-up to Tet, according to Kantar Worldpanel, which noted three digit growth in volume consumption last year in the categories of confectionery, soft drinks and cooking additives.
Kantar also identified beer and biscuits as common gifts during this period, with 35% of urban households receiving them during Tet 2013.
"Tet plays as a seasonal momentum to boost up a spectacular spending spree across the country," said David Anjoubault, general manager at Kantar Worldpanel Vietnam.
Families, and women especially, feel it less necessary to prepare traditional foodstuffs themselves when they can buy these products in shops, but 90% of Epinion's survey said rice cakes and slow-cooked pork were essentials for Tet feasts.
As well as food, Epinion said electrical and electronic products were sought-after items.
While most survey respondents intended to spend the Tet holiday period at home with family and friends, 27% said they would travel. Among the latter group, 80% said they would go on holiday within Vietnam, while 20% were heading abroad, with Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong the favoured destinations.
But critics have said that the holiday and its associated levels of consumerism are adversely affecting the economy. The South China Morning Post quoted a commentator who argued that Tet was "not suitable for the modern economy" and that people were getting deeply into debt as a result.
And a prominent Vietnamese economist, Pham Chi Lan, bemoaned the length of the holiday and the low productivity it brought, which were "causing problems for Vietnam's development".
This year the government is giving state employees nine days off and shutting schools for two weeks "to facilitate traveling and the enjoyment of Tet rituals with families" according to an official statement. But some observers have suggested that an unpopular government is really seeking to boost its standing with the public.
Data sourced from Vietnamnet, Kantar Worldpanel, South China Morning Post; additional content by Warc staff