On the streets of Taipei City, the density of convenience stores is beyond imagination; there are roughly five stores per square kilometer. Taiwan currently holds the world record for the highest density of convenience stores of any country in the world. In 2014, the number of convenience stores had reached over 10,000. Convenience stores are no doubt an outstanding business success in Taiwan.
Basically condensed supermarkets, convenience stores contain different sorts of products, including food and drinks. However, instead of selling in large quantities, convenience stores hold small amounts and fewer varieties of products. Different from other sorts of grocery stores, convenience stores have longer operating hours; in Taiwan, for example, they operate 24 hours a day.
History of convenience stores
Starting originally at gas stations in the US, convenience stores became unusually popular in high density East Asian cities during the 80s. In 1979, with the collaboration of the US’s largest convenience store company, Uni-President introduced 7-11 to Taiwan, starting the revolution of convenience stores. Four years later, 7-11 had successfully saturated into commercial and highly-populated areas. It was not long after that the stores started operating 24 hours a day. By 1986, a total of a hundred 7-11s were operating around the island.
Following Uni-President’s footsteps, other corporations began to show interest in convenience stores. FamilyMart and OK-Mart opened their first stores in 1988, and Hi-Life in 1989. Ever since, the business of these chain stores has multiplied. These days, it is perfectly normal for some people to enter a convenience store at least once a day.
Why they succeeded
One of the main reasons for the success of these convenience stores is their management structure. Workers and clerks are trained to work efficiently. Because of this, the stores could often operate with roughly three workers without sacrificing customer satisfaction. Also, food in these stores is mostly processed or pre-cooked, allowing customers to fill up their empty stomachs quickly and cheaply, benefiting people during workdays.
Furthermore, convenience stores do a fantastic job inserting themselves into people’s daily lives. Every piece of merchandise chosen fits perfectly with customer demands. For example, the companies adjust their orders according to seasons and temperature. During cold days, they stock fewer cold drinks and begin selling hot beverages; in summer, they do the opposite. This helps with budgeting and making additional profit just by swapping inventory according to the temperature.
Lately, with the collaboration of other companies and public institutions, the stores also offer services such as package delivery, ticket purchasing, and more. This has allowed convenience stores to continue expanding their business, by spreading themselves more into people’s daily matters.
Having developed for thirty years, convenience stores now cover almost every aspect of our lives, from food and drinks to paying taxes and tuition. Besides being a great success, convenience stores have had a huge impact on people in Taiwan, by making their lives more convenient and more efficient.
This article is very much in favor of convenience stores. For a counter-point, see our piece on how 7-11 affects our lives.