Convenience stores are spreading quickly across China. Sales reached over US$28 billion in 2017 – an increase of 23%. There are now around 100,000 convenience outlets across the country, making it the sector’s fastest growing retail model. In contrast with previous trends, many of these chains are now supplying imported and premium food products. Customers are attracted to convenience products, including ready-prepared fresh fruits and vegetables, which they perceive to be fresher and healthier than the goods traditionally sold in convenience stores.
The main convenience store operators are 7-11, You Ke, Ke Hao, and Mini Shop. Around 40% of these chains run their own online platforms. While this channel accounted for only 8% of sales in 2017, it is certain to grow.
Compared with other retail models, convenience store operators rely on local distributors for stocking and logistical services. This means that exporters to China need to work with local distributors rather than convenience store purchasing managers. Convenience store operators are currently looking for products for their private label goods. Food ingredient exporters and others are encouraged to consider attending the annual China Convenience Store Convention organised by China Chain Store & Franchise Association (www.ccfa.org.cn). This convention is an ideal platform to make direct connections with key convenience store operators and distributors.