Convenience stores need to keep diversifying: FamilyMart chairman

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With more than 10,000 convenience stores across Taiwan, leading store chains need to keep diversifying their services to attract customers in this highly competitive market. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — With more than 10,000 convenience stores across the country, the business needs to keep diversifying the services it offers to attract customers in a highly competitive market, according to the chairman of one of Taiwan’s leading convenience chains.

Yeh Jung-ting (長葉榮), chairman and chief executive officer of FamilyMart (全家便利商店), said on Feb. 13 that Taiwan’s convenience store market is already saturated and if stores did not provide diverse services such as allowing customers to pay bills and send packages, they would find it difficult to make a profit just selling goods.

To that end, convenience stores need to attract more customers by “changing their profit models in wake of fierce day-to-day competition,” Yeh said.

In terms of FamilyMart’s expansion, Yeh said the business plans to focus on smart technology allowing customers to purchase coffee and other products without having to physically pay at the counter. There are currently 3,240 FamilyMart stores in Taiwan and 24,071 around the world, according to the company’s website.

In recent years, 7-Eleven convenience stores have even incorporated cosmetics stores, gymnasiums, and bakeries, while FamilyMart has worked with other businesses to open food and beverage, fresh grocery, health and laundromat outlets.

Li Shyh-jane (李世珍), deputy director of the Business Model Innovation Research Division, Commerce Development Research Institute (商業發展研究院), points out that the line between convenience stores and traditional supermarkets is becoming increasingly blurred, as larger competitors downsize to fit into commercial areas.

Traditional supermarkets and hypermarkets such as PX Mart, Carrefour and Simple Mart have downsized stores to become more and more like convenience stores, Li said.

A leading example is Carrefour’s 24-hour “market” stores, of which there are 64 across the country, Li said, adding that they carry up to 10,000 products including hot and light foods, baked products etc. which attracts smaller families and single people.

Likewise, PX Mart’s “Mini” stores also sell cooked sweet potatoes, corn, tea eggs, freshly baked bread, and coffee. In addition, FamilyMart and grocer Tanhou work together to sell fresh food, frozen seafood, and organic fruit and vegetables in their stores, Li pointed out.

This business model is designed to ensure the customer keeps coming back, while also increasing the amount they spend and frequency of purchases, Li said.

By Tsai Peng-min and William Yen