Convenience stores

The History of Convenience Stores Reveals a Story of Cultural Adaptation and Mass Capitalism

It’s 1927 in Oak Cliff, Dallas. Jefferson Green, who ran the Southland Ice Dock, decides to add basics like milk, bread and eggs to his store’s list of offerings. The Ice Dock, a place where people came to stock up on giant blocks of ice for refrigerate their food, was already running 16 hours a day, seven days a week, so Green thought about maximizing the influx of customers multiplied by extended hours, which local grocery stores didn’t have.

Impressed by Green’s idea, one of the founding directors of the Southland Ice Company decides to merge the operations, with stores in various locations open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. These would later be renamed 7-Eleven. It would take another 36 years for stores to operate on the now ubiquitous 24-hour model, in the process of global expansion so that by the mid-1970s there were around 5,000 7-Eleven outlets in the world.

The then-only American importation would change not only the global food retail industries and eating habits, but the convenience store also inevitably adopted the culture and details of daily life in its foreign counterparts. It was a new form of mass capitalism, frankly, filtered through the lens of whatever country it was in.

Inside the konbini

The first convenience stores in Japan were established in the mid-1970s through a cooperation between the Southland Ice Company and the Japanese retailer Ito-Yokado Co., Ltd.

When the first convenience stores (or konbini) in Japan were created in the mid-1970s through a cooperation between Southland Ice Company and Japanese retailer Ito-Yokado Co., Ltd., innovation took the form of ready-to-eat versions of traditional foods such as onigiri and oden.

The rise of the women’s movement in Japanwhich at one time coincided with the arrival of convenience stores, contributed to another quintessentially Japanese element in konbini: bento boxes and other nakashoku (take-out food) became a very convenient dinner option for households whose both parents worked and therefore had little time to prepare home-cooked meals.

These packaged meals and a list of other food items, often consumer versions of traditional snacks, were delivered to the growing number of convenience stores in Japan using an advanced and extensive vending system. Meanwhile, the POS system, which was introduced later in the 1980s, turned inventory and delivery management into a fascinating display of efficiency and synchronicity that quickly became synonymous with konbini – l he place we probably think of whenever we think of how efficient or organized or even creative or eccentric the Japanese are.

The rise of the women’s movement in Japan contributed to another quintessentially Japanese element in konbini: bento boxes and other nakashoku (take-out food) became a convenient and welcome dinner option for households with both parents working and not working. therefore had little or no time to prepare. homemade dishes.

Because variety and novelty are key elements in the konbini also, where endless variations on a single KitKat bar meet machines capable of printing photos on special paper as well as booking flights and dispensing airline tickets. This harmony of product and service, convenience by ignoring supposed incompatibilities and limitations, and technical efficiency are explored both as a framework and a metaphor in the 2016 novel “Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata.

Bento boxes and other nakashoku (takeaway meals) have become essential in Japanese convenience stores
Bento boxes and other nakashoku (takeaway meals) have become essential in Japanese convenience stores

Giving insight into the day-to-day operations of modern konbini through the eyes of a convenience store employee named Keiko, the book shows the many ways in which mass capitalism is internalized and assimilated into daily life via seemingly innocuous (and even needed) than a grocery store. Literally wrongly, Keiko finds working in a konbini more tolerable than existing in the outside world, with the former’s set rules and air of precision providing comforting predictability. Here she goes through the motions of her work:

“As I organize the display of the newly delivered rice balls, my body picks up information from the multitude of sounds in the store. At this time of day, the rice balls, sandwiches and salads are what sells best… I continue to carefully arrange the immaculate machine-made food on the shelves of the cold display: in the middle I place two rows of the new flavor, spicy cod roe with cream cheese, alongside two rows of the store’s best-selling flavor, tuna mayonnaise, then I line up the less popular soy sauce-flavored dry bonito flakes next to those. Speed ​​is key and I barely use my head because the rules ingrained in me instruct my body directly.

The catch here is that while the passage is meant to exude a sense of clinical detachment, what’s equally palpable is Keiko’s confidence and even excitement because of the predictability of the task. His may be an extreme case and the novel could be read as deliberately trying to take stock of consumerism and the expectations of work and society specific to Japanbut these are not unlikely to translate to these stores’ counterparts in other countries, where the signature characteristics of the konbini remain intact.

Filipino convenience stores

Ministop was proud to be the first convenience store in the Philippines with the first in-store kitchen installation
Ministop was proud to be the first convenience store in the Philippines with the first in-store kitchen installation

The Japanese import (as it has since become less of an American invention, despite its unmistakably American roots) made its way to the Philippines in the mid-1980s, when Philippine Seven Corp. (PSC) opened the first 7-Eleven branch at the corner of EDSA and Kamias streets in Kamuning, Quezon City in February 1984.

Other well-known Japanese convenience stores such as Lawson, Family Mart, and Ministop (now called Uncle John’s) followed, each of which introduced unique selling points that could potentially enhance the kind of convenience customers had grown accustomed to. from 7-Eleven. came on the market. Ministop was proud to be the first convenience store in the country with the first in-store kitchen installation, while Family Mart stayed true to its roots and brought its loaded range of fresh Japanese meals and snacks.

The convenience store has undoubtedly become an unstoppable force in the Philippine retail grocery market. Culturally, however, what remains quintessentially Filipino among (welcome) imports like the convenience store is found in the sari-sari store: the small portions, the way it’s often conveniently located near one’s home, and its ability to bring people together. .

Quite quickly, Filipino convenience stores like All Day embraced the convenience store model, despite the challenge presented by giant competitors in an industry that was growing very rapidly. With the exception of 7-Eleven Philippines, which was established about a decade after its Japanese counterpart was founded, the Filipino convenience store is relatively young. It is therefore worth noting its growth, which continues to follow a constant upward trend despite being the smallest segment of the Philippine grocery market: according to a Nielsen Philippine Shopping Trends Reportin 2017, the format of convenience stores increased by 20%, i.e. 5% more than the growth rate posted in 2016.

According to the same report, in 2018 the country had more than 4,000 convenience stores, nearly three times the number of convenience stores in 2013. Rapid urbanization is seen as the main driver of this substantial growth, with many Convenience stores may expand due in large part to the growing industry of business process outsourcing (24/7 operations, an obvious attraction for employees). Major players will continue to expand their businesses, and so we can only expect more convenience stores to appear across the country.

Convenience stores contribute to everyone's practical life
Convenience stores contribute to everyone’s practical life

The success of this relatively young format is not surprising. In addition to the rapid urbanization of the country, the same Nielsen report points out that consumer preferences are leaning towards small store formats, generally located near homes or high traffic areas. This is reminiscent of the sari-sari store, which has since lost its place as the most popular model in the small store format to convenience stores. The same Nielsen report indicates that the latter contracted by one percent in 2017.

The convenience store has undoubtedly become an unstoppable force in the Philippine retail grocery market. Culturally, however, what remains quintessentially Filipino among (welcome) imports like the convenience store is found in the sari-sari store: the small portions, the way it’s often conveniently located near one’s home, and its ability to bring people together. .

Story originating from F&BREPORT