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Talk of the Day -- Around-the-corner convenience stores in Taiwan
Central News Agency
2014-02-17 09:05 PM
The number of convenience stores in Taiwan has broken the 10,000 mark, averaging one such store for every 2,000 members of the population, the highest density in the world. Even though some pundits said as long as a decade ago that the convenience store market had become saturated, growth has not slackened. 7-Eleven boasts the largest number of convenience stores in Taiwan at 4,943, followed by FamilyMart at 2,900, Hi-Life at 1,296 and OK-Mart at 880. The following are excerpts of a special report by the China Times on the omnipresent stores in Taiwan: With so many convenience stores sprouting up, each is striving to develop a distinctive feature in addition to providing daily necessities and fast food. For example, one FamilyMart store in the Neihu District of Taipei that is opposite a duty-free shop allows payment in Chinese yuan to suit the needs of Chinese tourists. With currency exchange rates posted at its checkout counter, the "mini-bank" store also provides delivery services of Taiwanese local delicacies such as pineapple cakes to China. Another FamilyMart store located in Jenai Village, in central Taiwan's Nantou County, is called the "cherry blossom" store, because it has an outdoor seating area of 500 pings (around 1,650 square meters) that offers wonderful views of cherry blossoms. Each February, when the cherry trees are in full bloom, it has become a favorite place for people who want to appreciate the blossoms. The "stores around the corner" have also become logistics stops for bikers touring the island. A 7-Eleven in Dajen Village, in eastern Taiwan's Taitung County, is well-known to bikers because it is the first convenience store they encounter after the exhausting ride from Sichung creek in Pingtung County across County Highway 199 and the South Bound Highway. Also, where the tourists hang out, the convenience stores tend to focus on Taiwanese products such as pineapple cakes, sun cakes and even facial masks. A FamilyMart near Sun Moon Lake in central Taiwan sees its small-packaged pineapple cakes and Kinmen Kaoliang liquor as favorite products among the many Chinese tourists who visit the area. What is more interesting is that even green oil and white flower oil sell like hot cakes. In the beginning, this was because the area has many mosquitoes and insects, and green oil is used to soothe the bites. Thanks later to word-of-mouth, almost every Chinese tourist buys a vial, as it is easy to carry and is a made-in-Taiwan product, a FamilyMart executive said. In addition, Chinese tourists like to buy large cartons of pineapple cakes. The 7-Eleven in Taipei 101, Taiwan's highest skyscraper, has a constant stockpile of 20 cartons of pineapple cakes, which are sold out as soon as a group of Chinese tourists step inside. With one convenience store every few steps away, local people are pampered and getting lazy. They can get breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and even late-night snacks there. They can also get high speed rail tickets, concert tickets, send or receive parcels, and even pay triffic tickets. 7-Eleven said that large stores are becoming a trend and that it will try to do everything it can to persuade patrons stay and eat their meals on the premises. Catering to such patrons will be one of the priorities, with estimates that eating-out sales in Taiwan could reach between NT$500 billion (US$16.54 billion) and NT$600 billion a year. Fast food now accounts for 18 percent of the aggregated revenue of the 7-Eleven chain. Sales of lunch boxes, instant noodles and bread at 7-Elevens totaled NT$25 billion in 2013, higher even than sales of McDonald's. The "superb" convenience stores also impress foreign students studying here. A student from Portugal who is studying at National Taiwan Normal University's Mandarin Training Center said that convenience stores in Europe close early, unlike those in Taiwan, which are open around the clock. They also sell coffee and offer a wide variety of food. An Australian student who is studying Mandarin at the same school said he is amazed to see that the stores sell so many things -- pre-paid cellphone cards, railway tickets and even fruit. Yet another student from the Netherlands said that there are not so many convenience stores in his country, and he also praised the kindness and warmth of the stores in Taiwan. A student from South Korea surnamed Cho who is studying in Chung Yuan Christian University said that the convenience stores in Taiwan are bigger than South Korea's and carry more items. One can always rely on the stores at Chinese New Year or during typhoons, when most shops are closed, Cho said. (By Lilian Wu)
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