Convenience Stores grow and reach $195 billion sales!
In-store convenience store sales grew 2.4%, reaching a record $195.0 billion. Combined with $486.9 billion in motor fuels sales, total convenience store sales in 2011 were $681.9 billion, or one out of every 22 dollars of the overall $15.04 trillion U.S. gross domestic product. In Spanish-speaking areas of the U.S., convenience stores are oftentimes called a “bodega”, which literally means “warehouse” in Spanish.
The first chain convenience store in the United States was opened in Dallas, Texas in 1927 by the Southland Ice Company, which eventually became 7-Eleven, the largest convenience store chain. In 1939, a dairy owner named J.J. Lawson started a store at his dairy plant near Akron, Ohio, to sell his milk. The Lawson’s Milk Company grew to a chain of stores, primarily in Ohio. Circle K, another large company-owned convenience store chain, was founded in 1951. Since that time many different convenience store brands have developed, and their stores may either be corporate-owned or franchises.
The items offered for sale tend to be similar despite store brand, and almost always include milk, bread, soft drinks, cigarettes, phone cards, coffee, slushees, candy bars, Twinkies, Slim Jims, hot dogs, ice cream, candy, gum, lip balm, chips, pretzels, popcorn, beef jerky, doughnuts, maps, magazines, newspapers, small toys, car supplies, feminine hygiene products, cat food, dog food, and toilet paper. Other less common items include sandwiches, pizza, and frozen foods. Nearly all convenience stores also have an automated teller machine (ATM), though other banking services are usually not available. State lottery tickets are also available at these stores.
In 1966, the U.S. convenience store industry first recorded $1 billion in sales. By the end of the decade, the industry had recorded $3.5 billion a year in sales. By the late 1960s, the amount of 24-hour convenience stores increased to meet the needs of a younger population and people who were working late night or early morning shifts. Not surprisingly, the first 24-hour store opened in Las Vegas in 1963.
Some convenience stores in the United States also sell gasoline. Only 2,500 stores had self-serve at the pump by 1969. It was not until the 1970s that retailers realized selling gasoline could be profitable—and competitive. In 2011, there were approximately 47,195 gas stations with convenience stores that generated $326 billion in revenue. Out of those over 3,008 of the gas stations had gas station TV installed at the gas station pumps.
Policies regarding the sale of adult magazines vary, but generally larger chains (such as 7-Eleven and Casey’s General Stores) do not sell these items, while smaller independent stores may do so. One notable exception to this “rule” is fast-growing regional chain Sheetz, which does sell some soft-core pornographic material such as Playboy (including its various “special” issues), Penthouse, and Playgirl.
Because the laws regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages vary from state to state in the United States, the availability of beer, wine, and liquor varies greatly. For example, while convenience stores in Alaska, Pennsylvania and New Jersey cannot sell any kind of alcohol at all, stores in Nevada, New Mexico, and California may sell alcoholic beverages of any sort, while stores in Virginia, Idaho, or Oregon can sell beer and wine, but not liquor. Similar to grocery stores, convenience stores in New York can sell beer only, not wine or liquor.
Altoona, Pennsylvania-based Sheetz tried to find a loophole in 2007 by classifying part of one of their prototype stores in Altoona as a restaurant, which would permit alcohol sales. However, state courts in Pennsylvania promptly overruled this. State law requires restaurants to have on-site consumption, but Sheetz did not do this. Sheetz continues to sell alcohol in other states.
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, conveniences stores are known as night shops.
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