A convenience store is a small store or shop that sells items such as candy, ice-cream, soft drinks, lottery tickets, newspapers and magazines, along with a selection of processed food and perhaps some groceries. Stores that are part of gas stations may also sell motor oil, windshield washer fluid, radiator fluid, and maps. Often toiletries and other hygiene products are stocked, and some of these stores also offer money orders and wire transfer services or liquor products. They are often located alongside busy roads, in densely-populated urban neighborhoods, at gas/petrol stations or near railway stations or other transportation hubs. In some countries most convenience stores have longer shopping hours, some being open 24 hours.
Convenience stores developed tremendously in Japan. 7-Eleven Japan, while struggling to localize their service in the 1970s to 1980s, evolved its point of sale-based business. Ultimately, Seven & I Holdings Co., the parent company of 7-Eleven Japan, acquired 7-Eleven (US) from Southland Corporation in 1991. Japanese-style convenience stores also heavily influenced those stores in other Asian nations, such as Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and China.
Convenience stores rely heavily on the point of sale. Customers' ages, gender, as well as tomorrow's weather forecast, are important data. Stores place all orders on-line. As their store sizes are limited, they have to be very careful in choosing what brands to sell. In many cases, several stores from the same chain do business in neighboring areas. This strategy makes distribution to each store cheaper. It also makes multiple distributions per a day possible. Generally, foods are delivered to each store two to five times a day from factories. Since products are delivered as needed, stores do not need large stock areas.
According to the The Japan Franchise Association, as of July 2009, there are 42,204 convenience stores in Japan. Among them, 7-Eleven leads the market with 12,323 stores, followed by Lawson (9,562) and FamilyMart (7,504). Most items available in larger supermarkets can be found in Japanese convenience stores. In addition, the following additional services are also commonly available:
* Courier and postal service. * Photocopying and fax service. * Automated teller machines. * Payment service for utilities and other bills and taxes. * Ticket service for concerts, theme parks, airlines etc.