A convenience store is a small store or shop, generally accessible or local. They are often located alongside busy roads, or at gas/petrol stations. This can take the form of gas stations supplementing their income with retail outlets, or convenience stores adding gas to the list of goods on offer. Railway stations also often have a convenience store.
Convenience store in Tokyo Japan
Goods on offer
Sometimes abbreviated to c-store, various types exist, for example; liquor stores (off-licences - offies), mini-markets (mini-marts) or party stores. Typically junk food (candy, ice-cream, soft drinks), lottery tickets, newspapers and magazines are sold. 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. Varying degrees of food supplies are usually available, from household products, to prepackaged foods like sandwiches and frozen burritos. Motoring items such as motor oil, maps and car kit may be sold. Often toiletries and other hygiene products are stocked,as well as pantyhose and contraception. Some of these stores also sell money orders and wire transfer services.
In some countries, convenience stores usually have a hot food counter, with chicken pieces, breakfast food and many other items. Often there is an in-store bakery - throughout Europe these now sell fresh French bread (or similar). A process of freezing part-baked bread allows easy shipment (often from France) and baking in-store. A delicatessen counter is also popular, offering custom-made sandwiches and baguettes. Some stores have a self-service microwave oven for heating purchased food.
Convenience stores may be combined with other services, such as a train station ticket counter or a post office counter.
Differences from supermarkets
Size is the main difference, although larger newer convenience stores have quite a broad range of items. Prices in a convenience store are typically higher than at a supermarket, mass merchandise store, or auto supply store. In the United States, the stores will sometimes be 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.
Convenience stores in the US
Many of these stores in the United States are owned by ethnic Indians, to the degree that an Indian owner of a convenience store has become a stock (and often, stereotypical) character (see Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a character in The Simpsons). In some urban areas, ethnic Koreans are also active in owning convenience stores. At times, there have been ethnic tensions between Korean-American convenience store owners and African American customers. Such convenience stores had been subject to looting and arson during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Many convenience stores in the inner-cities are often targets of robberies.
The first (US) convenience store was opened in Dallas, Texas in 1927 by the Southland Ice Company, which eventually became 7-Eleven.
Convenience stores are similar but not identical to Australian milk bars. Corner shops in the British Isles, still to be found today, were the pre-cursor to the modern European convenience store (e.g. Spar) in these countries. In the Canadian province of Quebec, dépanneurs are often family-owned neighbourhood shops that serve similar purposes.
List of convenience stores
Many of these are owned by Couche-Tard.
- FamilyMart - Primarily in Japan, also elsewhere in East Asia. Coming soon to the US.
- Circle K