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What are Convenience Stores?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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Convenience stores are small-sized stores that offer a limited range of grocery and other items that people are likely to need or want as a matter of convenience. Most are located on busy street corners or in gas stations. Both travelers and locals use these stores.

Travelers stopping for gas or for washroom facilities often appreciate the convenience of having food, drinks, reading material and maps available without having to go to a supermarket. Convenience stores are usually open even when supermarkets are closed and usually allow for quicker shopping and service. To compensate for the convenience they offer, the prices are often higher at these stores than they are at supermarkets.

Locals are likely to go to a convenience store when their regular supermarket is closed and they need to replace an item such as milk, toilet paper or bread that they run out of in the home. However, many locals also regularly buy lottery tickets, magazines and candy from these stores. Students often buy cold drinks and snack foods from convenience stores.

Many convenience stores have microwaves for heating up prepared sandwiches, soups, and hot dogs they sell. Some also have coffee and breakfast sandwich specials for morning commuters. A newspaper is sometimes included in these offers. These stores often carry at least some ready-to-go bakery items such as muffins and doughnuts.

Convenience stores are often organized into a few short aisles of candy, chips, and toiletries in the center and glass cases of drinks and frozen foods against the side and back walls. Drink and coffee machines and prepared foods are often together in another area and there may or may not be a deli. The front counters may hold containers of candy and beef jerky. Magazines and newspapers may be available at the front counter and/or at a magazine rack in the store.

There are at least 75 different convenience store chains in North America, 15 in Europe and 30 in Asia. In many countries, they are often used regularly by residents for banking services and bill payments. Convenience stores, like fast food restaurants, are popular not only for the convenience, but also because they tend to focus on getting customers in and out quickly.

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Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Dec 13, 2012

@LisaLou – Some people don't like convenience store coffee, but I think it tastes awesome! I love the cappuccinos from the machine, and I get a hot vanilla cappuccino every time I go to the big convenience store in town.

Also, many of my friends refuse to eat “gas station food.” They think they will get food poisoning from it, but I have to say that when I step into a convenience store and smell scrumptious fried chicken, I can't resist. I have never gotten ill from eating it, either.

Just because food or coffee is cheap doesn't mean it will harm you. It's fast and convenient, just the way I like it.

By kylee07drg — On Dec 12, 2012

My husband seems to collect maps from convenience stores. He isn't even aware that he is doing it, but every time we travel, he buys a new map from one of these stores. I think it's strange that he is obsessed with maps, because we have a GPS in the vehicle.

By JackWhack — On Dec 11, 2012

@feasting – Those bars do probably turn away quite a few travelers. I know I wouldn't want to go to a convenience store like that!

I live in a rough neighborhood, and I hear about robberies at small convenience stores in the news all the time. This makes me nervous to even go there to get gas.

I actually drive twenty miles out of the way to get my gas at a bigger convenience store that is very well lit and in a better neighborhood. True, it isn't convenient, but it's better than getting shot or possibly murdered!

By feasting — On Dec 11, 2012

The route I take to the Gulf coast whenever I go on vacation is sort of a back road, and for many miles, there are only tiny convenience stores here and there. Some of them don't even have an indoor bathroom, and they exist mostly for selling gas and candy bars or chips.

A few of them are in scary neighborhoods, and they have bars on the windows like a jail cell! When I see these bars, I am afraid to stop at that convenience store, because I know that they expect crimes to happen.

By Mykol — On Jul 03, 2011

I live in a small town that has one convenience store. This is a very busy place for adults and teenagers. Many students stop here before and after school for drinks and snacks.

They also have a pizza shop inside the store and because there aren't a lot of options for eating out, this place gets quite a bit of business. I like having many of these conveniences close by so I don't have to drive to a bigger town all the time.

By LisaLou — On Jul 02, 2011

I stop at a convenience store several times a week just to get coffee on my way to work. I know that I am not the only one who does this, because the place is very crowded! Many people are not even stopping to get gas, they are going in to get their morning coffee.

With the cost of coffee at specialty shops being so high, the convenience stores offer a nice alternative. I like being able to add my own creamers and flavored syrups to make my own custom coffee.

By sunshined — On Jul 01, 2011

Convenience stores are so successful because as their name implies - they are so convenient. I know I can stop at one store to fuel up my car, get some snacks and even a few groceries, and save myself a lot of time. I would rather pay a little bit more for some items if it saves me from making 2 or 3 other stops somewhere else.

Whenever we travel and I have forgotten something I need, I am always surprised at the variety of convenience store supplies in such a small space. They have many items that you would not even think about until you need them. It is nice to have the convenience of buying them right there.

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