Basics-at-all-hours stores cash in on convenience, simple inventory

If it seems like those all-hours convenience stores are on almost every corner, that's because they are. The concept of offering basic merchandise at times when larger stores are closed (or overcrowded) has been one readily accepted by the American public. And that has meant a big expansion program for these chains. And why? Because in most cases, the tiny stores have been profitable.

Figures recently released by one chain (7-11 stores) showed that customers spend an average of $3.24 on each visit. Biggest sellers are candy bars, razor blades, and popular magazines. Convenience-store stocks are kept basic - to about 3,000 best-selling units. This number is only a small portion of the inventory carried by traditional markets and helps to account for the nominal operating expense.

The stores in all sections of the country have become popular for their edibles - hot drinks to go, fast-food sandwiches, and packaged desserts. Somebody who kept a research tally pointed out that half the convenience-store purchases (food and drink) are consumed within 30 minutes. And if the buyers are still hungry, there's the return visit.

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