A Convenience Store by Any Other Name…
C-stores are as varied as the consumers they serve; they can even be classified into sub-categories. Let’s look at a few.
Convenience stores are fun to write about because they come in as many varieties as the customers they serve. SSCS’ own user base is a reflection of this variety, speaking to our software’s ability to adapt.
As the c-store market has grown, distinctive sub-groups have emerged within it. This post from the Home Service Oil Company provides one list of categories—some familiar; some that may not be c-stores at all. With that in mind, we thought we’d come up with our own list.
As retail food and grocery channels continue to blend together and savvy operators strive for market differentiation, the sky has really become the limit when it comes to what a c-store can be.
Operations not only are getting bigger, they boast striking exterior designs that exert a strong pull on the consumer. While large multi-site franchisors like Buc-ees are famous for the sense of epic scope they bring to their retail outlets, some regional chains, like SSCS customer Tahoma Market, have stepped up their game to create their own palatial outlets, as you can see from the included image.
The Community Hub
In smaller, out of the way towns with populations of a few thousand or less, a c-store that understands its market becomes more than just a store, it becomes a community center. These stores may not have the exterior flash of “the palace” but they have become integral in the lives of those that frequent them. These are the kinds of places where locals gather to start their day with a freshly cooked breakfast in a pleasant dining space or get merchandise they just can’t get anywhere else be it eel bait or deer corn. SSCS customer, Short Stop, with eight stores scattered through small rural communities in Texas Hill country, exemplifies this kind of approach, and it’s working very well for them.
The Corner Shop
We tend to think of the corner shop as something you’d see in the British Isles, and that’s not entirely unreasonable given their popularity throughout. Like the local hub in the previous section, these shops broaden their inventory beyond what most expect to find on c-store shelves, be it toys, ice cream, or whatever attracts the locals, and in many cases, tourists. Once of the most striking corner shops we ran into was in Westport, Ireland. The photo provided captures the essence of what a corner store is all about, although we should mention that often corner stores aren’t found on a corner at all.
Identified closely with New York, the bodega is perhaps the most citified of all c-store sub-categories, often crammed between other commercial interests on the block like a book on a shelf.
Like any other successful c-store, a good bodega caters to the needs of its market, which in New York or New Jersey sometimes means fresh produce bins, flowers, or Halal meat products. Each bodega reflects the nationalities and ethnicities throughout the neighborhood it serves.
Over the past few years the term “bodega” has become more familiar to the general public. Maybe it’s all those New York police shows. There is even a docu-reality show called Bodega Makeover, which can be pretty interesting to watch if you’re part of the industry.
The bodega may be an up-and-comer on the convenience store scene, but from the perspective of the global consumer, Konbini are the rock stars of the industry. It seems everyone and their uncle has a story or has posted a blog about Japan’s version of the C-store, mostly about the exotic food offerings that are their stock and trade.
It makes sense; any traveler to Japan has seen multiple Konbini crammed into the same city block, each busy with its share of enthusiastic customers. There’s a lot to take in; you might see the occasional robot, or walk into a full-fledged video game parlor. You may even be able to make a plane reservation, and probably perform a round of Karaoke or two while you’re waiting. There are plenty of places to read about these popular stores. SoraNews24 is one of our favorites.
Honorable Mention: Korean convenience stores may not have their own special name (do they?), but if you’re having a night out in downtown Seoul, ask a young adult where the action is and don’t be surprised if they say the c-store down the well-lit neon street. Fully stocked with adult beverages, the Korean c-store is a more than a viable alternative to a bar. How’s that for channel blending?
The c-store categories we’ve summarized here will surely evolve as the industry evolves. Whether it’s continuing transformation of c-stores into destination dining establishments, the emergence of a new breed of drive-through only stores, “ghost” c-store networks without a storefront, or something else we’ve haven’t anticipated yet, be assured that SSCS will be there adapting our technology to the dynamic requirements of tomorrow’s industry.