Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - Page 4 News List

Crowded market pits convenience stores in turf war

Staff writer, with CNA

The number of convenience chain stores in the nation has broken the 10,000 mark, meaning that there is now an average of one for every 2,000 members of the population, the Chinese-language China Times reported earlier this week.

With 4,943 outlets, the 7-Eleven chain boasts the largest number of convenience stores in Taiwan, followed by FamilyMart with 2,900, Hi-Life at 1,296 and OK-Mart’s 880 shops, the paper said.

With so many convenience stores springing up, each chain is striving to ensure that its stores cater to the specific needs of the local clientele to set them apart from the others’ — and that on top of offering their usual wide array of daily necessities, food and services — the China Times reported.

For example, a FamilyMart store in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) located opposite a duty-free shop accepts Chinese yuan to cater to the needs of the Chinese tourists who frequent the shop, while another in Nantou County’s Jenai Township (仁愛) has been dubbed the “cherry blossom” store because it has a 500 ping (about 1,650m2) outdoor seating area that offers customers views of cherry blossom trees.

Another FamilyMart near Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) also caters to Chinese tourists, making sure to stockpile the individually packaged pineapple cakes and Kinmen kaoliang liquor that the store says are a huge hit with the cross-strait visitors who flock to the scenic spot.

Green and white flower oils are also best-sellers at the outlet, partly because the area harbors a lot of mosquitoes and insects whose bites can be soothed by applying the oils. Since the vials of oil are easy to carry and made in Taiwan, they also make good souvenirs, and word-of-mouth promotion has resulted in almost every Chinese tourist who visits the shop buying a bottle, a FamilyMart executive said.

The 7-Eleven chain similarly seeks to attract customers by tailoring its outlets to meet local demand.

For example, one of its shops in Taitung County’s Daren Township (達仁) aims to cater to bikers’ needs because it is well-known among that customer group since it is the first convenience store they encounter after completing the exhausting journey across County Highway 199 and the South Bound Highway from the Sichung River in Pingtung County.

In addition to making its shops customer-specific, 7-Eleven said that it aims to persuade patrons to eat food bought at its stores on the premises.

The nation’s largest convenience store chain said that food now accounts for 18 percent of its aggregated revenue.

Sales of boxed meals, instant noodles and bread at 7-Elevens totaled NT$25 billion (US$822.7 million) last year, an amount that topped even McDonald’s.

The convenience store chains’ efforts to win customers seem to be paying off, according to reports saying that foreign students are often impressed by the number of shops in Taiwan and the wide range of services they offer.

A student from Portugal studying at National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center said that unlike those in Taiwan, which are open around the clock, convenience stores in Europe close early.

An Australian studying Chinese at the same school said he is amazed to see that Taiwanese convenience shops sell such a wide array of things, while another student from the Netherlands praised the “warm” customer service received at such stores.

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