Taiwan stores take convenience to divine levels

Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:11am EST
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By Argin Chang

TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Need divine protection but pressed for time? Don't worry, just drop into one Taiwanese convenience store, make a donation and an offering will be made in your name at one of the island's most famous temples.

Such spiritual services symbolize the innovations available at Taiwan's convenience stores, whose increasing dominance of the local shopping scene reflects a deep social change as better wages and opportunities draw more people to city life.

Food shops, cafes, banks, travel agents, offices and even recyclers rolled into one, convenience stores are always open and on almost every street corner, catering to an ever-faster pace of life in the island's cities.

"As people's life patterns change because of urbanization, they are willing to pay a tad more money to buy convenience and time," said Chang Chia-ming, a sociology professor at Soochow University in Taipei.

"The 'convenience store-isation' of society is most intense in Japan, and then Taiwan. Now it is making its way to some cities in China too."

Most apartments in Taiwan's urban areas are only at most 500 meters from a 7-11 or FamilyMart, the dominant chains in Taiwan.

The island has one store for every 2,489 people, the highest density in the world, and figures from Nielsen show each Taiwanese shops in one on average 17 times a month.

"The higher the density and competition, the more convenience they have to provide," Chang said.   Continued...