Convenience store facts for kids

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Convenience store interior
Interior of a Japanese convenience store
7 Eleven Fukushima Shinchi Town Shop
A 7 Eleven convenience store in Japan

A convenience store is a small retail business that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, snack foods, confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco products, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines. In some jurisdictions, corner stores are licensed to sell alcohol, typically beer and wine. Such stores may also offer money order and wire transfer services. 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, some remaining open 24 hours.

Convenience stores usually charge significantly higher prices than conventional grocery stores or supermarkets, as convenience 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.

Terminology

A convenience store may also be called a c-store, Cold Store, party store, small grocery store, bodega, mini-market, mini-mart, or depanneur (the last is a loanword from the French term used in French Canada).

Merchandise

Various types exist, for example: liquor stores (off-licences—offies), mini-markets (mini-marts), general stores or party stores. Typically junk food (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 carry cigarettes and other tobacco products. 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 feminine hygiene and contraception. Stores may carry apparel, home furnishings, and CDs and DVDs. Some of these stores also offer money orders and wire transfer services. Convenience stores that are near fishing destinations may carry live fishing bait as well as fishing equipment and supplies. Convenience stores may also carry small appliances as well as other household items such as coolers and back packs. Convenience stores have also been known to carry candles, stationery, artwork and dishes.

Convenience store on the corner in polish town - Tomaszów Mazowiecki
Convenience store on the corner in Polish town - Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Łódź Voivodeship

Many convenience stores offer food ready to eat, such as breakfast sandwiches and other breakfast food. Throughout Europe convenience stores now sell fresh French bread (or similar). A process of freezing parbaked bread allows easy shipment (often from France) and baking in-store. Some stores have a delicatessen counter, offering custom-made sandwiches and baguettes. Others have racks offering fresh delivered or baked doughnuts from local doughnut shops. Some stores have a self-service microwave oven for heating purchased food.

In the United States, some fast food chains offer a counter in convenience stores. Instead of cooking food in the store, these counters offer a limited menu of items delivered several times a day from a local branch of the restaurant. Convenience stores may be combined with other services, such as general stores and pawn shops, a train station ticket counter, 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 at a lesser extent. 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

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Personal care products at a FamilyMart convenience store

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 traveler such as a hotel guest does not want or is unable to carry leftover product with them when they leave.

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An Oxxo store

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 become 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.

Crime

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.

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Notice posted to deter robbery

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.

Similar concepts

Lawson Haramachikitahara Shop
A Lawson convenience store in Minamisoma, Fukushima

Convenience stores to some extent replaced the old-fashioned general store. They are similar but not identical to Australian milk bars. In Britain, corner shops in towns and village shops in the countryside served similar purposes and were the precursors to the modern European convenience store (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 stores. For example, in Los Angeles, CA, a local chain operates neighborhood grocery stores that fill a niche between a traditional supermarket and convenience store. Because they stock fresh fruit and fresh meat and carry upwards of 5000 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 stores are known as night shops.

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