Variety store

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100-yen at Kōnoike, Higashiōsaka
The interior of a one-euro shop in Amsterdam, Netherlands

A variety store (also pound shop, dollar store, and other names) is a retail store that sells a wide range of inexpensive household goods.[1]

Variety stores often have product lines including food and drink, personal hygiene products, small home and garden tools, office supplies, decorations, electronics, garden plants, toys, pet supplies, remaindered books, recorded media, and motor and bike consumables. Larger stores may sell frozen foods and fresh produce.

Variety stores arose in the early 20th century,[citation needed] with Woolworth's model to reduce store overheads by simplifying the duties of sales clerks. They may now be found all over the world.

A multiple store is a retailer that has many different locations but are owned by one sole body. A variety store has a wide range of products and sells them for a cheap price.


Some items are offered at a considerable discount over other retailers, whereas others are at much the same price point. There are two ways variety stores make a profit:

  • Buying and selling huge amounts of goods at heavily discounted prices provides a small profit margin that is multiplied by the volume of sales.
  • Pricing many items at prices that are higher than regular retailers. These goods are commonly bought by consumers who perceive them to be bargains based on the heavy discounts on other items in the store. In the case of fixed price-point retailers, this can be achieved by reducing the size of the package to one that is smaller than what is found in other retail outlets.[2][3]

Variety stores with single price points buy products to fit those price points (while making a profit) that are:

Not all variety stores are "single price-point" stores, even if their names imply it. For example, in the United States, Dollar General and Family Dollar sell items at more or less than a dollar. Some stores also sell goods priced at multiples of the named price and, conversely, multiple items for the price. The discrepancy with the nominal price is also compounded if sales tax is added at the point of sale.


In many countries, stock can be imported from others with lower variable costs, because of differences in wages, resource costs or taxation.[citation needed] Usually goods are imported by a general importer, then sold to the stores wholesale.[disputed ]

Another source of stock is overruns, surplus items and out-of-date food products. Real Deals, a regional dollar store in the Syracuse, New York area, is stocked almost entirely with surplus goods such as these.[4] The legality of selling out-of-date goods varies between jurisdictions: in general, most items (with a few exceptions, particularly certain perishable food items depending on the state) can be sold in the United States regardless of their sell-by date,[5] but in the United Kingdom it is illegal to sell goods after their "Use By" date.[6]


Although some people[who?] may link variety stores with low-income areas, this is not always true. For example, Atherton, California has a variety store within its city limits, even though it has a median household income of nearly $185,000 a year.[7] Studies of food discounters in Great Britain show quite a varied demographic,[8] and 99p Stores reported an increase in higher-income customers after the financial crisis of 2007–08.[9]


North AmericaEdit

An art gallery in Seattle's International District preserves the facade and some features of Higo Variety Store, an independent Japanese-American five and ten.
Kress Stores contributed distinct buildings to many American downtowns. This one is in Tampa, Florida.
F. W. Woolworth and S. S. Kresge stores on Lackawanna Avenue, in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania. The two stores were often found near one another in downtown areas.

The concept of the variety store originated with the five and ten, five and dime, nickel or dime, and ten-cent store or dime store (10 cents), a store offering a wide assortment of inexpensive items for personal and household use.[10][failed verification] The originators of the concept were the Woolworth Bros., in July 1879.[citation needed] Woolworth Bros. later became F. W. Woolworth Company or just "Woolworth's." On 21 June 1879, Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first successful five-cent store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after a failed attempt with a store he opened on 22 February 1879, in Utica, New York. Frank soon brought his brother Charles Sumner "Sum" Woolworth into the business. Together they opened a second store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 18 July 1879.

Before they started their own stores, the Woolworth brothers worked for Augsbury and Moore, a dry goods store in Watertown, New York. It was they who trained the Woolworth brothers and lent Frank $300 in goods. Frank settled his debt by the time he opened the Lancaster store. Frank experimented with a 10¢ table in Lancaster, and similarly to his experiment of a 5¢ table at Augsbury and Moore, it was a success. Sum managed the Harrisburg store, crammed it with goods, hired clerks, and also added a table with a ten-cent line of goods. Once again, the approach was a huge success.

Because of a rent dispute, Sum soon moved the Harrisburg store to York, Pennsylvania, and on 6 November 1880, he opened the store in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, and formally called it a "5¢ & 10¢ store". There, he developed and fully established the nickel-and-dime concept into American culture. Frank spent time opening more stores, working the back end of the business, buying in bulk for all affiliates and "friendly rivals," and buying from manufacturers to keep prices low. Meanwhile, Sum used his store to train new managers and develop many of the Woolworth concepts which included bright lighting, a polished high-luster floor, glass showcases, mahogany counters, and goods people could touch. Before this, clerks had to work with each customer individually, handing them goods from cases or shelves. This required more clerks, with greater knowledge, and so cost more.

Before Woolworth, the prevailing thought was an entire store could not maintain itself with all low-priced goods. The Woolworth Bros. and their affiliated partner stores originally featured goods priced at only five cents and ten cents. Many other people tried to copy their lead.[11]

Later in the twentieth century the price range expanded; originally Woolworths did a strictly "five-and-ten cent" business, but in the spring of 1932, a 20-cent line of merchandise was added. On 13 November 1935, the company's directors decided to discontinue selling price limits altogether.[12] Inflation eventually dictated that the stores were no longer able to sell any items for five or ten cents, and were then referred to as "variety stores" or more commonly "dollar stores." Using the Historical Consumer Price Index for January 1913 and November 2018, an item costing $0.05 in January 1913 would cost $1.29 in November 2018 dollars, all other things being equal.[13]

Well-known dime store companies included:[14]

Of these, only Ben Franklin continues to exist in this form, while Kresge and Walton's became mega-retailers Kmart and Walmart, respectively. The last US Woolworth's-branded variety store closed in 1997; however the Woolworth company had success with its subsidiary sports retailer Foot Locker, and the company's name has been officially changed to Foot Locker to reflect the new focus of the business. Beginning around the 1960s, others tried the larger "discount store" format as well, such as TG&Y Family Centers, W.T. Grant, and Woolworth's Woolco stores.[citation needed]

United KingdomEdit

Woolworth's opened its first store in the United Kingdom in 1909, when they were also colloquially known as "threepenny and sixpenny" stores, "3d and 6d" being displayed on the shops' frontages.[17][18]



In Japan, 100-yen shops (百円ショップ hyaku-en shoppu or 百均 hyakkin) have proliferated since around 2001. This is considered an after-effect of a decade-long recession of the Japanese economy.[19] Despite the emphasis on value, however, some items, such as chocolate bars, may be priced higher than they are at other stores.

For a few years, 100-yen shops existed not as permanent stores, but as vendors under temporary, foldable tents. They were (and still are) typically found near the entrance areas of supermarkets.

A major player in 100-yen shops is the Daiso chain. The first store opened in 1991, and there are now around 2,400 stores in Japan. This number is increasing by around 40 stores per month. Daiso has also expanded into North America, Australia, Asia, and the Middle East.[20]

In China, ¥2 (or ¥3, depending on the area's economic prosperity) shops have become a common sight in most cities. In Hong Kong, major department stores have opened their own $10 shops (US$1.28) to compete in the market, and there are now "$8 shops" (US$1.02) and even "$2 shops" (US$0.26) competing at lower prices, especially in poorer communities. Low prices are helped by Hong Kong's lack of a sales tax and its proximity to China.

In Taiwan, fixed price stores can be found in many locations, including night markets, regular shopping streets, regular market stalls, and department stores. Two typical price points are NT$39 and NT$49. Given that the retail environment in Taiwan is already highly competitive, it is not unusual to see such stores fail. Typically the goods for such stores are manufactured in China to keep costs down.

In India, US Dollar Store, founded in 2003, is a pioneer of single price stores. The merchandise for pilot stores was sent from America. As sales grew over the years with more than 200 operational stores in India, the merchandise is now imported from China, Indonesia, Thailand, Spain, Portugal, UK and various other countries as well as the US. US Dollar stores were founded by entrepreneur Gaurav Sahni, owner of Nanson Overseas Private Limited. Nanson, operated by Gaurav Sahni and his brother Gautam Sahni, has had an established sourcing and consolidation network for over two decades, with supply bases worldwide. Direct sourcing without intermediaries and stocking a large variety of merchandise as and when needed has given the company an advantage.



In Germany, there are ToBi (German: Total Billig, "Totally Inexpensive") stores where most items cost one or two Euro or less.

In Hungary, there are 100 forintos bolt ("100 forints store") stores, but they do not form a single chain, instead of being operated by small, independent companies.

The HEMA chain started in the Netherlands, sold goods using standard prices of 10, 25 or 50 cents, and later also 75 and 100 cents. After World War II, this model could not be sustained and the standard pricing system was abandoned.[21] HEMA is the abbreviation of Hollandish standardized prices company (Dutch: Hollandse Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij). The HEMA had some 500 Dutch stores in 2011 and also operates in Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Since 2016 the chain is expanding in to other European countries such as Spain and the United Kingdom.

In Portugal, there were Trezentos shops (300 escudos, €1.50), but with the introduction of the Euro currency, this designation is not used nowadays and the terms 'bazar' or 'euro store' are preferred.

In Spain there are Todo a 100 shops ("everything for 100 pesetas" (€0.60)), although due to the introduction of the euro and inflation, most products cost a multiple of €0.60 or €1. Most of these shops maintain their name in pesetas, and most of them have been renamed as Casi todo a 100 ("almost everything for 100 [pesetas]"), Todo a 100, 300, 500 y más ("everything for 100, 300, 500 or more") or Todo a un euro. Colloquially, the expression todo a 100 implies that something is either cheap, kitsch or low quality.[citation needed]


North AmericaEdit

According to IBISWorld, dollar stores have grown 43 percent since 1998 and have become a $56 billion industry. Colliers International claims there are more dollar stores than drug stores. With stores of other types closing in large numbers, dollar stores often replace other types of stores in shopping centers. They succeed partly because of impulse purchases.[22]

Among today's dollar stores are:



South AmericaEdit

In Argentina, variety stores are called todo por dos pesos (everything for 2 pesos).

Brazilians sometimes use the expression um e noventa e nove to refer to cheap, low quality things or even people.

In Chile, they are called todo a mil (referring to the one thousand Chilean pesos banknote). They are commonly located in middle-class neighbourhoods where big retail stores don't usually venture and in small commercial districts like the ones in Santiago.

Other namesEdit

A 99 Cents Only store in Dallas, Texas

Variety stores are often named for the price of the goods sold in them; the names vary by area and time, as each country has a different currency, and the price of the goods has increased over time due to inflation. Modern names include:

  • 100 forintos bolt in Hungary
  • 3,8 RON shop in Romania
  • Всичко по 1 лев in Bulgaria
  • Euro store, €2 store, etc. in the Eurozone
  • Euroland (formerly known as knaakland) in the Netherlands
  • Euroshop or 1-Euro-Shop in Germany
  • Loja dos 300 in Portugal 300 escudos = 1.5 Eur
  • Magasin à prix unique (English: one price store) in France
  • Max20 (kroner) in Norway
  • Pound shop, 99p shop, etc. in the United Kingdom
  • Sve po 8/10/12 kuna in Croatia
  • Sve za 79/99/100 dinara (Everything for 79/99/100 dinars) in Serbia
  • Tal-Lira in Malta (Lira was Malta's old currency before transitioning to Euro)
  • Todo a 100, 20 duros and SuperCien in Spain (former cien = 100 pesetas = €0.60)
  • Wszystko za 5 złotych in Poland
North America
  • 5 y 10 in Mexico (5 and 10 pesos, or 5 and ten U.S. cents in border cities)
  • 99 cents store
  • Dollar store, $1.25 store, 99-cent store, etc. in the United States and Canada plus other names. Dollar store is used predominantly, even when the maximum price point is higher than one dollar. Some chains emphasize that the price is an even amount: $2, $5, etc., instead of having odd, "uneven" prices.
  • Dólar y Algo Extra, La Reina, Almacenes Caravana in Puerto Rico
  • Five and Dime
  • Five and Ten
  • Nickel and Dime
  • Nickel and Ten
South America
  • Dolarazo (US$1.00) and Cincuentazo (US$0.50) in Ecuador
  • Loja de 1,99 (BRL1.99 = US$1.07) in Brazil
  • Todo por 23 pesos in Uruguay (23 pesos = US$1)
  • Todo por dos Pesos in Argentina (1 peso = US$0.32)

Cultural referencesEdit

  • In November 2010, a piece of installation art called £100 Shop was exhibited in Dalston, London, presenting items from a pound shop as if they were unique luxury items. The items were genuinely offered for sale, albeit with a labyrinthine sales contract.[29]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Barmash, Isadore (22 November 1983). "Lamston Still Small and Local". New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Wallop, Harry (14 September 2012). "How Poundland makes its millions". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Hall-Davis, Amanda (21 April 2011). "£1 stores can cost you more". Yahoo Finance. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  4. ^ Tobin, Dave (April 2009). "Business is booming for Auburn-based dollar store chain". The Post-Standard; Retrieved 20 April 2012.
  5. ^ "Did you know that a store can sell food past the expiration date?". US Food and Drug Administration. 13 April 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  6. ^ "Guidance on the application of date labels to food" (PDF). UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. September 2011. p. 6. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Atherton, CA Real Estate Data". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  8. ^ Thompson, Chris; Clarke, Graham; Clark, Martin; Stillwell, John (October 2010). "Modelling the future opportunities of food retailing in Great Britain" (PDF). University of Leeds. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  9. ^ Harrison, Nicola (26 June 2009). "99p Stores guns for growth as profits soar". Retail Week. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  10. ^ "Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary: dime store". Random House. 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  11. ^ Plunkett-Powell, Karen (1999). Remembering Woolworth's: A Nostalgic History of the World's Most Famous Five-and-Dime. St. Martin's Press (New York). ISBN 978-0312277048.
  12. ^ Pages 45–58 Club Members Remember Shopping at Woolworth's Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society History Quarterly Source: April 1994 Volume 32 Number 2
  13. ^ "CPI Inflation Calculator". US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  14. ^ Hayward, Walter Sumner; and Percival Albert Frederick White; chapters by John S. Fleek and Hugh MacIntyre (1922). Chain stores: their management and operation. McGraw-Hill Book Co. Inc; printed by The Maple Press (York, PA).
  15. ^ Martin, Douglas (1 June 2002). "David Cohen Is Dead at 80; Led Chain of Bargain Stores". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "John's Bargain Store (John's, 512 E. 14th St. between Ave. A and Ave. B (1986))". Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Woolworths Group plc". 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  18. ^ "Woolworth store openings in the 1930s". 3D and 6D Pictures Ltd. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  19. ^ Bender, Andrew (27 June 2010). "Bargain hunting at Japan's 100-yen stores". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  20. ^ Typical Overseas Stores Archived 12 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^[dead link]
  22. ^ "Dollar stores among the new retail powerhouses". News & Record. 26 January 2012. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  23. ^ "Fourth Quarter MD&A" (PDF). Dollarama Financial Information. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 June 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  24. ^ a b c "Dollar Tree Annual Reports (10-K) 2016" (PDF). Dollar Tree Financial Information - Annual Reports. Retrieved 5 May 2017.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ "99 Cents Only Stores Reports Strong Fourth Quarter And Full Year Fiscal 2017 Results". 99 Cents Only Stores. Archived from the original on 13 August 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  26. ^ "USA Store Locator, DAISO JAPAN". Daiso Japan. Archived from the original on 27 April 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  27. ^ "Dollar General Reports Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2016 Financial Results; Company Provides Financial Guidance for Fiscal 2017". Dollar General Newsroom. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  28. ^ "Five Below, Inc. Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2016 Financial Results". Five Below, Inc. Archived from the original on 21 April 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  29. ^ "The £100 Shop". Hackney Citizen. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2013.

External linksEdit