What’s a Sari-Sari Store: PH’s small neighborhood retail shop
Convenience stores are the norm across the globe. They’re open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are often seen as saviors for anyone who’s looking for almost anything they might need: food, drink, gas (most convenience stores are found in gas stations), etc.
Convenience stores are rising in popularity in the Philippines, but it can’t quite replace what Filipinos have turned to for some of their daily needs: the humble sari-sari store. But what exactly is a sari-sari store, and why do Filipinos turn to them for their daily needs?
What is a sari-sari store?
A BASIC SARI-SARI STORE. When you hear a Filipino ask someone to go to a sari-sari store, this is where they go to. (Photo by Brian Evans via flickr)
A sari-sari store is a small neighborhood retail shop that caters to members of that community. The store usually carries basic goods such as canned food, instant noodles, coffee, soda, and other things that Filipinos get on a daily basis. They also sell candy, chips, and beer, but can have literally anything commodity the community needs.
The name comes from the Filipino term for variety (sari). Every sari-sari store you visit may offer similar products, but the number of products they carry will always be as varied as a glass of halo-halo.
Sari-sari stores nowadays also become your go-to prepaid mobile loading station, thanks to the popularity of smartphones.
Who owns/operates the store?
MEET THE OWNERS. Okay, we’re not 100% sure they actually own the store, but this depicts your typical ownership set-up for any sari-sari store. (Photo by Brian Evans via flickr)
Sari-sari stores are typically owned and operated by a mother whose sole purpose for putting up the store is to augment their family income. Most sari-sari stores become a small family business, with other members of the family pitching in.
Why do Filipinos like having sari-sari stores so much?
TINGI. It’s the one thing you’ll be able to do at a sari-sari store that you won’t be able to do elsewhere: get a stick of cigarette, a piece of candy, or a few milliliters of cooking oil without having to buy a whole pack or a bottle. (Photo by burgermac via flickr)
The best thing about the sari-sari store is the ability of people to buy things tingi or per piece. Sari-sari stores are the only place where you can buy a piece of candy or a stick of cigarette instead of having to buy a pack of each.
Prices are also more affordable than convenience stores (but more expensive than supermarkets) because most of them are run from the owner’s own home. They don’t profit much from the business venture, though; most of their stock comes from supermarkets, and they only have a 1 or 2-peso markup on everything they sell.
It’s also more accessible from a financial perspective. Most people know exactly who the sari-sari store owner is, and will often befriend them so they can ask for credit for some of their purchases. It’s not healthy for business, but it lets the store owner become a vital part of the community.
LOST? Your best bet is to go to a sari-sari store. The people who frequent these stores are locals, so they’ll likely know where you’re headed. It’s also ideal if you’re looking for someone who’s lost. (Photo by Brian Evans)
These stores also become a gathering place of sorts, thus being a good place to find people. Most sari-sari stores are put up because a certain area lacks access to these everyday goods. If yours is the only place that sells these everyday goods, chances are people will flock to your store every day, making it ideal for anyone who’s looking for someone.
It’s this combination of convenience and community service that separates sari-sari stores from convenience stores like 7-11 and Ministop. Profit won’t be much, since these mothers are usually housewives without any real business education.
Companies like Hapinoy, however, are helping out these moms by giving them education, access to capital, and a way of branching out to new lines of business that would hopefully remove the need to depend on the small but highly valued sari-sari store for their income.
Got other questions about the sari-sari store? Hit us up in the comments section below.