Big C Vietnam, one of the largest supermarket operators in the country, has moved to quell fears it is pulling out of the apparel sector after it announced plans to suspend the local purchase of garments.

In a statement issued by Big C, which is owned by Central Group – a conglomerate with interests in electronics, sporting, fashion and department stores – it said its mission was to make "customers' life easier" and was creating new Vietnamese brands for Vietnamese consumers and as a result was reviewing its supplier portfolio.

Currently, it has more than 4000 suppliers, of which 200 are garment and textile suppliers. Big C said it was reviewing this 200-strong portfolio and would select the vendors most "qualified" to deliver on its new concept in Vietnam and other potential foreign markets. Reports suggest it is looking to trim its supplier portfolio from 200 to 50.

"The suspension of the orders is only temporary, and we humbly request you to be rest assured that we are not stopping the business activity of Big C Softline," the company said in a statement following media reports of suppliers arriving to protest in front of Central Group's offices last week.

According to local reports, Central Group, which acquired the Big C business from France's Casino Grup in 2016 in a US$1.05bn deal, is taking the business through a restructuring where it is planning a new business strategy for the textile and garment division in Vietnam.

The supplier suspension is expected to last 15 days according to Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai, who addressed reporters at a press conference.

"Our vision to commit to contributing to Vietnam's prosperity and enhancing the quality of life of the people remains unchanged. Big C is fully committed to continuing to locally develop the new business concept at Big C Softline and remains committed to locally sourcing all the products," it added.