A convenience store, convenience shop, or corner store is a small retail business that stocks a range of everyday items such as coffee, groceries, snack foods, confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco products, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines. In some jurisdictions, convenience stores are licensed to sell alcohol, although many such jurisdictions limit such beverages to those with relatively low alcoholic content such as beer and wine. Such stores may also offer money order and wire transfer services, along with the use of a fax machine or photocopier for a small per-copy cost. They differ from general stores and village shops in that they are not in a rural location and are used as a convenient supplement to larger stores.
A convenience store may be part of a gas/petrol station, so customers can purchase goods conveniently while filling their vehicle with fuel. It may be located alongside a busy road, in an urban area, near a railway or railroad station, or at another transport hub. In some countries, convenience stores have long shopping hours, and some remain open 24 hours.
Convenience stores usually charge significantly higher prices than conventional grocery stores or supermarkets, as these stores order smaller quantities of inventory at higher per-unit prices from wholesalers. However, convenience stores make up for this loss by having longer open hours, serving more locations, and having shorter cashier lines.
- 1 Terminology
- 2 Merchandise
- 3 Differences from supermarkets
- 4 By country
- 4.1 Australia
- 4.2 Canada
- 4.3 Costa Rica
- 4.4 Chile
- 4.5 Finland
- 4.6 France
- 4.7 Germany
- 4.8 India
- 4.9 Indonesia
- 4.10 Japan
- 4.11 Malaysia
- 4.12 Mexico
- 4.13 Mongolia
- 4.14 New Zealand
- 4.15 Peru
- 4.16 Philippines
- 4.17 Singapore
- 4.18 Taiwan
- 4.19 United Kingdom
- 4.20 United States
- 5 Similar concepts
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
A convenience store may also be called a c-store, cold store, party store, bodega, carry out, mini-market, mini-mart, konbini (Japan), corner shop (British English-speaking countries), deli or milk bar (Australia), dairy (New Zealand), superette (New Zealand and parts of USA), depanneur or dep (the last two are loanwords from the French term used in parts of Canada).
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Various types exist, for example, liquor stores (off-licences—offies), mini-markets (mini-marts), general stores or party stores. Typically confectionery (sweets, ice-cream, soft drinks), lottery tickets, newspapers and magazines are sold although merchandise varies widely from store to store. Unless the outlet is a liquor store, the range of alcohol beverages is likely to be limited (i.e. beer and wine) or non-existent. Most stores sell cigarettes and other tobacco products (e.g. cigarette papers, pipe tobacco, cigars and e-liquid for e-cigarettes). Varying degrees of food and grocery supplies are usually available, from household products to prepackaged foods like sandwiches and frozen burritos. Automobile-related items—such as motor oil, maps and car kits—may be sold. Often toiletries and other hygiene products are stocked, as well as sanitary products and contraception. Stores may carry apparel, home furnishings, CDs and DVDs. Some of these stores also offer money orders and wire transfer services. Convenience stores may also carry small appliances as well as other household items such as coolers and backpacks. Convenience stores have also been known to carry candles, stationery, artwork and crockery.
Many convenience shops offer food ready-to-eat, such as breakfast sandwiches and fry-ups. Throughout Europe, it is now common for convenience stores to sell fresh French bread (or similar). A process of freezing parbaked bread allows easy shipment (often from France) and baking in-store. Some shops have a delicatessen counter, offering custom-made sandwiches and baguettes. Others have racks offering fresh delivered or baked doughnuts from local doughnut shops. Some shops have a self-service microwave oven for heating purchased food.
In the United States and Canada, fast food items are often available, with stores offering such food either under its owner banner or in partnership with a fast-food chain maintaining a counter in the store. Often, to save space, food is not prepared in the store. Instead these counters offer a limited menu of items delivered several times a day from a local branch of the restaurant, with items intended to be served hot either kept hot under a warming device or re-heated as ordered.
Convenience stores may be combined with other services, such as general stores and pawn shops, a ticket counter for purchasing railway tickets, a post office counter, or gasoline pumps. In Asian countries, like Japan or Taiwan, convenience stores are more common because of the higher population density. They are found with gasoline and train stations, but also can be stand-alone stores. Here, items like soft drinks or snacks are sold. Hot dogs, sausages, hard boiled tea eggs, and fish cakes can be found in stores. Delicatessens are absent, instead, pre-made sandwiches can be bought. Non-food products like magazines are also sold but to a lower degree. Many convenience stores also have a fountain that offers a variety of beverages such as coffee, soft drinks and frozen beverages.
The smaller convenience stores typically have very few perishable items because it is not economically viable to rotate perishable items frequently with such a low number of staff. Smaller convenience stores also do not generate the business needed to sustain food spoilage rates typical of grocery stores or supermarkets. As such, products with a long shelf life are the rule unless a product is specifically aimed at attracting customers on the chance they may buy something profitable too.
Differences from supermarkets
Although larger, newer convenience stores may have quite a broad range of items, the selection is still limited compared to supermarkets, and in many stores only one or two choices are available. Prices in a convenience store are often higher than those at a supermarket, mass merchandise store, or auto supply store, as convenience stores order smaller quantities of inventory at higher per-unit prices from wholesalers. However, there are some exceptions like milk and fuel which are priced similar to larger stores, as convenience stores traditionally do high volume in these goods and sometimes use them as loss leaders.
Product containers in a convenience store are often smaller with reduced product quantity, to allow more products on the store shelves. This also reduces the apparent cost differences between full-size packaging in supermarkets. Smaller packaging also reduces waste when a traveller such as a hotel guest does not want or is unable to carry the leftover product with them when they leave.
The average U.S. convenience store has a sales area of 2,768 square feet (257.2 m2). New stores average about 2,800 square feet (260 m2) of sales area and about 1,900 square feet (180 m2) of non-sales area—a nod to retailers recognizing the importance of creating destinations within the store that require additional space—whether coffee islands, food service areas with seating or financial services kiosks. Convenience stores also have expanded their offerings over the last few years, with stores becoming a part supermarket, restaurant, gas station and even a bank or drug store.
Convenience stores sell approximately 80 percent of the fuels purchased in the United States. In the US, the stores are sometimes the only stores and services near an interstate highway exit where drivers can buy any kind of food or drink for miles. Most of the profit margin from these stores comes from beer, liquor, and cigarettes. Although those three categories themselves usually yield lower margins per item, the sales volume in these categories generally makes up for it. Profits per item are much higher on deli items (bags of ice, chicken, etc.), but sales are generally lower. In some countries, most convenience stores have longer shopping hours, some being open 24 hours.
The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) the peak body for Australian Convenience Stores, defines a convenience store as “a retail business with the primary emphasis placed on providing the public with a convenient location to quickly purchase from an array of consumable products, predominantly food and beverages, services as well as petrol." The product mix includes food to go, beverages, dispensed/barista coffee, snacks (including confectionery), tobacco, basic groceries, ice, petrol and carwash. Stores may offer services such as ATMs, ‘click & collect’, gas bottle exchange, money transfer and lottery tickets. A key feature of convenience stores is their extended hours of operation. Many are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The majority of convenience stores in Australia are small businesses, being either independently owned or operated under franchise or licence agreement. The industry comprises over 6,000 stores and employs well over 40,000 people as of mid-2018. The Australian convenience channel merchandise sales are valued at $8.4 billion (excluding petrol sales) according to the AACS State of the Industry Report 2017. Australia has a flourishing Convenience industry with a number of well-known convenience brands including 7-Eleven, Caltex, BP, APCO, Coles Express, ‘On The Run’, Viva Energy, Freedom Fuels and Puma Energy.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., which operates Couche-Tard, Provi-Soir, Dépanneur 7, Circle K and Becker's, is the largest convenience store chain in Canada and receives its products through Core-Mark International, a North American distribution company specializing in fresh convenience. Another large chain is Quickie Mart (whose name predates the fictitious "Kwik-E-Mart" featured on The Simpsons). The world's largest convenience retailer, 7-Eleven, has about 500 Canadian locations from British Columbia to Ontario. Worldwide, the highest number of the chain's Slurpee beverages are sold in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the city has been given the title of the "Slurpee Capital of the World". Marketing itself as "more than just a convenience store", there are over 260 Hasty Market locations throughout Ontario, and Hasty Markets also exist in British Columbia.
In addition to chain convenience stores, there are also many independently owned convenience stores in Canada.
Convenience stores are also commonly referred to as "corner stores", "mini-marts", or "variety stores" in some regions of Canada. In the French-speaking province of Quebec, a convenience store is known as a "dépanneur", or "dep" for short, even when speaking in English. "Dépanneur" means literally "one who gets you out of a jam".
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In Costa Rica, family-owned and operated convenience stores called pulperías have been common since the 1900s and there are many of those stores in every neighbourhood.
In the 2010s, modern convenience stores were introduced, mainly by the AMPM company. Competitors launched brands such as Musmanni Mini Super (a chain of bakery stores promoted to convenience stores), Vindi (operated by AutoMercado supermarket company), and Fresh Market (operated by AMPM in a format appealing to prosperous neighborhoods).
Chilean convenience stores are typically found at gas-stations in most urban and near-urban areas on highways. Examples of these are Punto/Pronto (owned by Copec), Spacio 1 (Petrobras, formerly called Tigermarket and On The Run before Esso Chile was owned by Petrobras), Va y Ven (Terpel), Upa!, Upita!, and Select (from Shell).
Other brands operating mostly in city-centers and middle-to-upperscale neighborhoods are Ok! Market (owned by Unimarc), Big John and Oxxo (owned by FEMSA), and some small-scale "minisupermercados" akin to mom and pop stores
In Finland, convenience stores are referred as kiosks except for those found inside service stations which are referred simply as stores. The biggest convenience store chain is R-Kioski that has over 560 kiosks across the country which all are franchise licensed businesses. There are some independent convenience stores that use the word Kymppi or number 10 in their business name, which is remnant of a former large convenicence store chain that was called 10-kioski, which vanished around the early 2000s. Kymppi is a spoken colloquial word for number 10 ("kymmenen") in Finnish. Smaller towns often have independent kiosks as an R-Kioski franchise store needs a decent customer volume to be profitable. Convenience stores at service stations are either run by the station's parent oil company such as Shell or by either of the two major retail corporations in Finland: Kesko or S Group. Virtually all manned service stations have even a small convenience store.
In France, some convenience shops are referred to as "Arabe du coin [fr]" - "Arab on the corner". These shops often stay open later than the "épiceries" or groceries. Shop owners consider the name pejorative, especially those who are not from Arabia.
A corner shop in Germany is known as a 'Tante-Emma-Laden [de]' (Aunt Emma Shop). In recent years such shops are returning to city centres although they are increasingly run by large retail chains. Particularly in Berlin, the term "Spätkauf" or "Späti" is used, particularly to refer to shops with late opening times.
Due to German federal Law gas stations are most suitable sales points to establish convenience stores nationwide. Therefore, gas station operator group Aral settled a partnership agreement with one of the biggest German Retailers, REWE Group, to integrate REWE TO GO shops into five out of six German Aral gas stations until 2021. Usually these shops offer 24/7 services and sell about 1200 products.
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In India, a convenience store sells provisions, vegetables, and other goods.
Convenience stores or "Mini market" (in Indonesian) are mostly scattered around the towns. Due to local government restrictions and rules in Indonesia, usually convenience stores may only be built at least 500 meters from the nearest traditional market. This allows traditional market to keep selling local goods, while greatly lowers the opportunities for profit by those who seek to build/own a convenience store by reducing the eligibility of property to be developed into a convenience store. This is especially true in small cities and rural areas. As a result, convenience stores in rural areas are often built side by side, or at maximum within 50 meters of each other.
Local convenience store brands are Indomaret and Alfamart. Both targeting all public, where imported brands like 7-Eleven, Circle K or Lawson are targeting big cities and cater to a lifestyle more than "convenience". To be classified as a convenience store, the store should occupy no more than 100 square meters of service area, on in some local residence, the limit is 250 square meters.
The Indonesian government restricts convenience store licenses, so it can only be bought by franchisees, using a different name and different brand, or classifying it as cafeteria. A convenience store with a cafeteria license is only allowed to sell a maximum 10% of its service space for non food/beverages product. This type of convenience store often puts some lawn chairs and desk as a decoy in front of their stores, while offering the same range of products as a holder of a mini market license.
Convenience stores (コンビニエンスストア konbiniensu sutoa), often shortened to konbini (コンビニ), developed tremendously in Japan. 7-Eleven Japan, while struggling to localize their service in the 1970s to 1980s, evolved its point of sale-based business, until ultimately, Seven & I Holdings Co., the parent company of 7-Eleven Japan, acquired 7-Eleven (US) from Southland Corporation in 1991. Japanese-style convenience stores also heavily influenced those stores in other Asian regions or countries, such as Mainland China, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea. Convenience stores rely heavily on the point of sale. Customers' ages and gender, as well as tomorrow's weather forecast, are important data. Stores place all orders on-line. As the store floor sizes are limited, they have to be very careful in choosing what brands to sell. In many cases, several stores from the same chain do business in neighboring areas. This strategy makes distribution to each store cheaper, as well as making multiple deliveries per day possible. Generally, food goods are delivered to each store two to five times a day from factories. Since products are delivered as needed, stores do not need large stock areas.
According to The Japan Franchise Association, as of August 2009[update] (data pertaining to the month of July 2009), there are 42,345 convenience stores in Japan. 7-Eleven leads the market with 12,467 stores, followed by Lawson (9,562) and FamilyMart (7,604). Other operators include Circle K Sunkus, Daily Yamazaki, Ministop, Am/Pm Japan (acquired by Family Mart in 2009),ポプラ (Poplar (convenience store)), Coco Store and Seico Mart. Many items available in larger supermarkets can be found in Japanese convenience stores, though the selection is usually smaller. As well, the following additional services are also commonly available:
- Courier and postal service.
- Photocopying and fax service.
- Automated teller machines.
- Payment service for utilities and other bills and taxes.
- Ticket service for concerts, theme parks, airlines etc.
- Pre-paid cards for cellular phones.
Some stores also sell charging service for electronic money and ATM services for credit card or consumer finance. Items not commonly sold include Slurpees, lottery tickets, car supplies, and gasoline.
Konbini also offer customers the option of making konbini payments (often also referred to as just konbini), an offline payment solution that allows customers without credit or debit cards to make online purchases. A consumer can buy online services or goods, such as video games on Steam (Software), or tickets for events. By selecting konbini as payment method at the checkout, the consumer will receive a unique transaction code with an expiry date. Depending on the brand (i.e. 7-11 is slightly different than Family Mart), consumers will have to go to any convenience store and finalize the purchase, which can be either at the cashier or at the kiosk. Multiple providers offer konbini as checkout option for foreign companies selling online in Japan, such as Adyen, Degica, and Ingenico ePayments.
In 1974, Japan had 1,000 convenience stores. In 1996, Japan had 47,000 convenience stores, and the number was increasing by 1,500 annually. In 1996, in Japan there was one convenience store for every 2,000 people, while in the United States there was one per 8,000 people. Peter Landers of the Associated Press said that the computerized distribution system allows Japanese convenience stores to stock a wider variety of products, allowing for them to be more competitive in the marketplace. Because Japan has a lower crime rate, store owners are not reluctant to keep stores open at late hours in the night, and customers are not reluctant to shop during those times.
In Malaysia, 7-Eleven is the market leader in convenience shops, with 2,000 shops. Other convenience shops in the country are KK Super Mart, Quick and Easy and MyMart (owned by Mydin). Carrefour Express is also among one of the few convenience shops that had been in existence in Malaysia in the past, but has since ceased operations.
Oxxo is the largest chain in the country, with more than 15,000 stores around the country. Other convenience stores, such as Tiendas Extra, 7-Eleven, SuperCity, ampm, are also found in Mexico. The first convenience store in the country, Super 7 (now a 7-Eleven), was opened in 1976 in Monterrey, Nuevo León. There are also some regional chains, like Amigo Express and CB Mas, that operate in Comarca Lagunera, Super Q and El Matador in Queretaro, Coyote in Central Mexico and JV in Northeastern Mexico. Stores sell fast food like coffee, hot-dogs and nachos, cellphone prepaids between MXN$20 and MX$500, mainly Telcel and Movistar, newspapers, magazines, and some of their sells Panini products and other novelties.
Misceláneas (lit. meaning "place where miscellaneous items are sold", and otherwise called "tiendas de abarrotes" (grocery store) in some parts of the country) are smaller, family-run convenience stores, often found in central and southern Mexico. They operate in many locations, from rural communities to suburban residential neighborhoods, usually located in front of or below the family's residence. They often fulfil the role of neighborhood meeting points and places to disseminate community news. While offering a more limited, and sometimes varied, assortment of items than corporate chains, they fill a void in many areas in which corporate companies do not operate. Usually, they also sell home-made snacks, such as tortas and sandwiches, made by the owners themselves. They also provide items in smaller quantities than would be offered for sale in larger stores and markets, for example selling single cigarettes along with full packs.
In New Zealand, convenience shops are commonly referred to as dairies and superettes. Dairies in New Zealand are generally independently owned and operated. The use of the term dairy to describe convenience shops was common in New Zealand by the late 1930s. Dairies carved out a niche in food retail by keeping longer trading hours than groceries and supermarkets – dairies were exempt from labor laws restricting trading hours and Saturday trading. With the deregulation of trading hours and in the wake of legislation in 1989 prohibiting sales of alcohol by dairies, the distinction between dairies, superettes, and groceries has blurred.
Convenience stores in Peru are typically independent corner stores called "bodegas", that include groceries, alcohol, services and phone booths. Other convenient stores are found at gas-stations in urban and connecting areas on highways; examples of these are Listo! (owned by Primax) and Repshop (Repsol). Recently, Tambo+, owned by Corporación Lindley S.A., has quickly become the biggest convenience store in the country with 300 stores opened in just 2 years. Mexican owned Oxxo has plans to expand to Peru.
Aside from the local convenience stores, other popular international convenience stores are present on almost every street especially in urban areas. 7-Eleven is the largest convenience store chain in the country. It is run by the Philippine Seven Corporation (PSC). Its first store, located in Quezon City, opened in 1984. Its branches are now approximately 1400.
Branches of Ministop, operated by the Robinsons Convenience Stores, Inc.; FamilyMart, operated and franchised by the joint partnership of Ayala Corporation and Rustans which are one of the largest shopping mall operators in the Philippines; All Day Convenience Store, owned by a Filipino Entrepreneur and a former Philippine Senator, Manny Villar. Lawson, Circle-K, and Alfamart have also opened stores in the country.
Major convenience shops in Singapore are 7-Eleven owned by Dairy Farm International Holdings and Cheers owned by NTUC Fairprice. Figures from the Singapore Department of Statistics showed that there are 338 7-Eleven shops and 91 Cheers outlets in 2004. Other convenience shops such as Myshop and One Plus appeared in 1983. Myshop belongs to a Japanese company, and One Plus belongs to Emporium Holdings.
Various reasons unique to Singapore have been given for the great popularity of convenience shops there. Convenience shops sell a wide range of imported goods, whereas minimarts and provision shops sell local products with a limited range of non-Asian products. Convenience shops are situated within housing estates thus reducing consumers' traveling time. Most families in Singapore are dual-income families. Since both the husband and wife are working, there is greater need for convenience in shopping for daily necessities. The 24-hour opening policy allows convenience shops to reach out to a larger group of consumers. Firstly, the policy caters to the shopping needs of consumers who work shifts or have irregular working hours. Secondly, the policy caters to the increasing number of Singaporeans who are keeping late nights. It was reported that 54% of Singaporeans stayed up past midnight in an economic review by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) in 2005.
7-Eleven began the trend of convenience shops in Singapore when it opened its first shop in 1982 by Jardine Matheson Group, under a franchise agreement with Southland Corporation of the United States. Dairy Farm International Holdings acquired the chain from Jardine Matheson Group in 1989.
The number of 7-Eleven outlets continued to increase in 1984 while other chains were having difficulty in expanding. One Plus was unable to expand due to the shortage of good sites. The original owners of the Myshop franchise, which had seven outlets, sold out to one of its suppliers due to a lack of demand.
However, in 1985, 7-Eleven faced difficulty in finding favourable locations and failed to meet its one-shop-a-month target. The situation improved in 1986 with a new Housing Development Board (HDB) tendering system, which allowed 7-Eleven to secure shops without having to bid too high a price. 7-Eleven shops are open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, including Sundays and public holidays. This 24/7 policy was seen as the reason that gave 7-Eleven its edge over its competitors.
In 1990, there was a rise in the number of shop thefts in 7-Eleven. The shoplifters were usually teenagers who stole small items such as chocolates, cigarettes and beer. In response to the increase in the number of thefts, 7-Eleven stepped up security measures, which successfully lowered the crime rate by 60%.
Cheers is owned by local corporation NTUC Fairprice, started in 1999. Cheers has adopted 7-Eleven's 24/7 model and taken similar security measures to prevent cases of shoplifting. Convenience shop owners seeking franchising seem to prefer Cheers over 7-Eleven, probably due to its cheaper franchise fee.
Boasting more than 10,000 convenience stores in an area of 35,980 km2 and a population of 23 million, Taiwan has Asia Pacific's and perhaps the world's highest density of convenience stores per person: one store per 2,500 people. With 4,665 7-Eleven stores, Taiwan also has the world's highest density of 7-Elevens per person: one store per 4,930 people (International Licensing page of 7-Eleven website). In Taipei, it is not unusual to see two 7-Elevens across the street or several of them within a few hundred meters of each other.
Because they are found everywhere, convenience stores in Taiwan provide services on behalf of financial institutions or government agencies such as collection of city parking fees, utility bills, traffic violation fines, and credit card payments. Eighty percent of urban household shoppers in Taiwan visit a convenience store each week (2005 ACNielsen ShopperTrends).
The corner shop in the United Kingdom grew from the start of the industrial revolution, with large populations moving from the agricultural countryside to newly built model townships and later terraced housing in towns and cities. The corner shops were locally owned small businesses, started by entrepreneurs who had often had other careers before taking on the large start-up capital requirement required to establish such a trading business. Many well-known high street retail brands, such as Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury's and latterly Tesco, originated during the Victorian era as simple, family-owned corner shops.
The name corner shop originated because such shops are traditionally located on the corner of an intersection.
The reign of the corner shop and the weekly market started to fade post–World War II, with the combination of the personal motor car and the introduction from the 1950s onwards of the American-originated supermarket format. The market shift in price and convenience led to the establishment of common trading brands operating as virtual franchises to win back the consumer, including Budgens, Costcutter, Londis, Nisa and SPAR. There was also a consolidation of some shops under some larger corporate-owned brands, including One Stop and RS McColl.
The primary competition to this privately owned 'corner shop' model came from the network of consumer cooperatives which were created after the success of that created by the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844. Rather than being owned by individuals, these shops were owned by their customer-members and, owing to their popularity, the number of co-operative shops had reached 1,439 by 1900. Co-operatives came about as a response to the problem of adulterated food which existed at the time and later they enabled members to buy types of food that they would otherwise be unable to afford. At their peak in the 1950s, consumers' co-operatives accounted for approximately 20%  of the UK grocery market, however with increasing competition this has decreased to around 6% in 2015. Due to a number of mergers over the years, the grocery co-operative sector in the UK is now predominately composed of the national The Co-operative Group and a few large regional co-operative societies such as the Midcounties Co-operative and Scotmid. Today, the majority of food retailing co-operatives societies brand their convenience shops as The Co-operative Food and together they form the second-largest convenience shop chain in the UK and the largest by number of shops, with one in every UK postal code.
From the late-1960s onwards, many such shops started to be owned by expatriate African-born Indians, expelled from their homelands by the newly independent countries rulers. Under the Shops Act 1950, Sunday trading had been illegal for most traders, with exceptions only allowed for small shops selling perishable items (i.e.: milk, bread, butter, fresh meat and vegetables), and most shops that were not off licences had to close at 20:00. However, the Sunday Trading Act 1994 allowed large format shops over 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) to open on a Sunday and later extended to 24/7 opening, which has drastically cut the number of convenience and corner shops.
In more recent time, due to a combination of competition laws and a lack of large-scale development space, many of the larger retail brands have now developed shop formats based around convenience shop and corner shop scale spaces, including Sainsbury's Local and Tesco Express.
In-store convenience store sales grew 2.4%, reaching a record $195.0 billion (2011 data).[when?] Combined with $486.9 billion in motor fuels sales, total convenience store sales in 2011 were $681.9 billion, or one out of every 22 dollars of the overall $15.04 trillion U.S. gross domestic product. In New York City, "bodega" has come to mean any convenience store or deli.
The first chain convenience store in the United States was opened in Dallas, Texas, in 1927 by the Southland Ice Company, which eventually became 7-Eleven, the largest convenience store chain. Stores connected to a service station developed into a trend, celebrated by some progressive architects:
Frank Lloyd Wright, The Disappearing City, 1932
In 1939, a dairy owner named J.J. Lawson started a store at his dairy plant near Akron, Ohio, to sell his milk. The Lawson's Milk Company grew to a chain of stores, primarily in Ohio. Circle K, another large company-owned convenience store chain, was founded in 1951.
Since that time many different convenience store brands have developed, and their stores may either be corporate-owned or franchises. The items offered for sale tend to be similar despite store brand, and almost always include milk, coffee, soft drinks, bread, snacks, ice cream, candy, gum, cigarettes, lip balm, condoms, phone cards, maps, magazines, newspapers, small toys, car supplies, feminine hygiene products, cat food, dog food, and toilet paper. Other less common items include sandwiches, pizza, and frozen foods. Nearly all convenience stores also have an automated teller machine (ATM), though other banking services are usually not available. State lottery tickets are also available at these stores.
In 1966, the U.S. convenience store industry first recorded $1 billion in sales. By the end of the decade, the industry had recorded $3.5 billion a year in sales. By the late 1960s, the amount of 24-hour convenience stores increased to meet the needs of a younger population and people who were working late night or early morning shifts. Not surprisingly, the first 24-hour store opened in Las Vegas in 1963.
Some convenience stores in the United States also sell gasoline. Only 2,500 stores had self-serve at the pump by 1969. It was not until the 1970s that retailers realized selling gasoline could be profitable—and competitive. In 2011, there were approximately 47,195 gas stations with convenience stores that generated $326 billion in revenue. Out of those over 3,008 of the gas stations had gas station TV installed at the gas station pumps.
Policies regarding the sale of adult magazines vary, but generally larger chains (such as 7-Eleven and Casey's General Stores) do not sell these items, while smaller independent stores may do so. One notable exception to this "rule" is fast-growing regional chain Sheetz, which does sell some soft-core pornographic material such as Playboy (including its various "special" issues), Penthouse, and Playgirl.
Because the laws regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages vary from state to state in the United States, the availability of beer, wine, and liquor varies greatly. For example, while convenience stores in Alaska, Pennsylvania and New Jersey cannot sell any kind of alcohol at all, stores in Nevada, New Mexico, and California may sell alcoholic beverages of any sort, while stores in Virginia, Idaho, or Oregon can sell beer and wine, but not liquor. Similar to grocery stores, convenience stores in New York can sell beer only, not wine or liquor. Altoona, Pennsylvania–based Sheetz tried to find a loophole in 2007 by classifying part of one of their prototype stores in Altoona as a restaurant, which would permit alcohol sales. However, state courts in Pennsylvania promptly overruled this. State law requires restaurants to have on-site consumption, but Sheetz did not do this. Sheetz continues to sell alcohol in other states.
American convenience stores are often direct targets of armed robbery. In some areas of the United States, it is not unusual for clerks to be working behind bulletproof glass windows, even during daylight hours. Some convenience stores may even limit access inside at night, requiring customers to approach a walk-up window specifically for such situations to make purchases. The main dangers are that almost all convenience stores only have one person working night shift, most of the transactions are in cash, and easily resold merchandise, such as liquor, lottery tickets, and cigarettes, is on site.
Most convenience stores have a cash drop slot into a time-delay safe so clerks may limit the amount of cash on hand. Many have installed security cameras to help deter robberies and shoplifting. Because of their vulnerability to crime, nearly all convenience stores have a friendly relationship with the local police. To reduce burglaries when the convenience store is closed, some convenience stores will have bars on the windows.
Convenience stores to some extent replaced the old-fashioned general store. They are similar to Australian milk bars but unlike these are often franchises and not "Mum and Pop" small business operations. In Britain, corner shops in towns and village shops in the countryside served similar purposes and were the precursors to the modern European convenience shop (e.g. Spar). In the Canadian province of Quebec, dépanneurs (often referred to as "deps" in English) are often family-owned neighbourhood shops that serve similar purposes. Truck stops, also known as "travel centers", combine a shop offering similar goods with a convenience store with amenities for professional drivers of semi-trailer trucks. This may include fast food restaurants, showers and facilities for buying large quantities of diesel fuel. The equivalent in Europe is the motorway service station.
Neighborhood grocery stores not big enough to be considered a supermarket often compete with convenience shops. For example, in Los Angeles, USA, a local chain operates neighborhood grocery stores that fill a niche between a traditional supermarket and convenience shop. Because they stock fresh fruit and fresh meat and carry upwards of 5,000 items, they have a lot in common with the supermarket. Due to the relatively small store size, customers can get in and out conveniently, or have purchases delivered. In Brussels, Belgium, convenience shops are known as night shops.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Convenience stores.|
- Convenience Store News (convenience store industry trade publication and online news source)
- Convenience Store Decisions (convenience store industry trade publication)
- cstore life magazine (The official publication of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association)
- Australian Convenience Store News (industry trade publication)
- NACS, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing
- Convenience Central (convenience store industry trade publications, event and news source)