Variety store

Variety store
100-Emon at Kohnoike Higashi Osaka-City

A variety store or price-point retailer is a retail store that sells inexpensive items, often with a single price for all items in the store. Typical merchandise includes cleaning supplies, toys, household goods and gardening equipment.

Formerly many variety stores had lunch counters for inexpensive meals.



Variety store products include cooking supplies, small tools, personal hygiene supplies, kitchen supplies, organizational supplies, small office supplies, holiday decorations, electronics supplies, gardening supplies, home decor, novelties, toys, pet supplies, out of print books, DVDs and VHS tapes, food products, automotive supplies, among other products.

Some items sold at a certain price point would cost that much anyway, whereas other items offer a substantially lower price than usual. There are three reasons a variety store is able to sell merchandise at such a low price:

  • The product is a generic or private label, often specially manufactured for such stores, using cheaper ingredients and processes than products intended for the mass market.
  • The product was manufactured cheaply for a foreign market but was then re-imported by an unauthorized distributor (grey market goods).
  • The product is purchased from another retail store or distributor as discontinued and discounted merchandise. (Often items were manufactured to coincide with the promotion of a motion picture, television show or special event (e.g. Olympic games), and are past their prime price.)

Some stores carry mostly new merchandise, some mostly closeout merchandise bought from other stores below regular wholesale cost.

Depending upon the size, some variety stores may have a frozen food and drink section, and also one with fruits and vegetables. The Deal$, Dollar Tree, and 99 Cents Only Store chains in the U.S. are three such examples. Some stores may have a section of single price point items combined on the same premises with a section selling larger, more expensive merchandise like CD players, lamps, and silverware. The flagship store of Jack's 99 and Jack's World in New York City is an example of such a store. Jack's 99 carries all types of items that retail for 99 cents, whereas Jack's World sells branded goods at discount prices.

DVDs and/or videotapes containing public domain cartoons, such as Betty Boop, Popeye and Felix the Cat may be sold at some variety stores, though they are generally low quality, even though packaging of such videos often says "High quality".


In economic terms, the pricing strategy of variety stores is inefficient as some items may actually be sold elsewhere at a lower price. However, this is balanced by the marketing efficiencies of a single price structure and consumers accept potentially overpriced items. The pricing inefficiency becomes unacceptable at higher price points. Thus there are no "100 dollar stores" where all items sell for $100; consumers expect to pay the correct amount, as inaccuracies result in significant dollar amounts.[citation needed]

In many developed countries, stock can be imported from states with lower variable costs, due to factors such as lower minimum wages or taxation[citation needed]. Usually merchandise is imported by a general merchandise importer/wholesaler, then sold to the stores at a wholesale rate. 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.[1]

Although some people may link variety stores with low-income areas, this comparison is not always necessarily true. For example, Atherton, California has a variety store within its city limits, even though it has a median household income of over $200,000 a year.[2]

Throughout the world

North America

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 iconic buildings to many American downtowns. This one is in Tampa, Florida.
Woolworth and Kresge stores in Scranton, Pennsylvania, often located near one another in busy downtown city locations.

The concept of the variety store originated with the five and ten, nickel and dime, five and dime, ten-cent store, or dimestore, a store where everything cost either five cents (a nickel) or ten cents (a dime). The originator of the concept is Woolworth Bros, in July 1879. Woolworth Bros later became F.W. Woolworth Company or just, Woolworth's. On June 21, 1879, Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first successful five cent store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after a failed attempt with a store he opened on February 22, 1879, in Utica, NY. Frank soon brought his brother, Charles Sumner "Sum" Woolworth into the business. Together they opened a second store in Harrisburg, PA, on July 18, 1879. Prior to their own stores, the Woolworth brothers worked in the Augsbury and Moore, a dry goods store at American corner in Watertown, New York. It was this employer who trained the Woolworth brothers, and loaned Frank $300 in merchandise. Frank settled his debt by the time he opened the Lancaster store. Frank experimented with a 10¢ table in Lancaster, and similar 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 added also added table with a ten cent line of goods. Again, the line was a huge success. Due to a rent dispute with the landlord, Sum soon moved the Harrisburg store to York, Pennsylvania and then, on November 6, 1880, Sum opened the store in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, and formally called the store a "5¢ & 10¢ store". There, Sum developed and fully established the five and ten (dime) concept into American culture. While Frank spent time opening more stores, working the back end of the business, buying in bulk for all affiliates and "friendly rivals", and buying manufacturers to keep prices low, Sum used his Scranton store to train new managers and develop many of the Woolworth concepts which included bright lighting, a polished high-luster shine floor, glass showcases, mahogany counters and merchandise which people can touch. Prior to this, clerks had to personally work with each customer, and take merchandise from cases or shelves to hand to customers. The old practice of individualized service caused more overhead and, clerks needed to know the merchandise. Also, prior to Woolworth, the prevailing thought was an entire store could not maintain itself with all low priced merchandise. The Woolworth Bros and their affiliated partner stores originally featured merchandise priced at only five cents and ten cents. Many other people tried to copy their lead. [3]

Later in the twentieth century the price range of merchandise expanded. 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 Jan 1913 (9.8) and Jan 2009 (211.143), the rate of inflation change is 2,067%. Therefore, $0.05 in Jan 1913 when adjusted for inflation is $1.08 in Jan 2009 dollars.[4]

Well-known dimestore companies included: [5]

Of these, only Duckwall-ALCO and Ben Franklin continue to exist in this form, while Kresge and Walton's went on to become mega-retailers Kmart and Wal-Mart. Beginning around the 1960s, others tried the larger "discount store" format as well, such as W.T. Grant, Woolworth's Woolco stores, and TG&Y Family Centers.

Among today's dollar stores are:


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 euro. 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.

In Portugal there were Trezentos' shops ("Store of the 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 Germany, there are ToBi (Total Billig, which translates as "Totally Inexpensive") stores where most items cost one or two Euro or less.

In the United Kingdom, "pound shops" are common, where everything costs £1; some lower-value items may be sold on the basis of 2, 3, or 4 for £1.[6] Not all stores with "pound" in their name use a fixed pricing model, for example Poundstretcher sells many items at higher prices.

In the Netherlands, one of the largest department store chains, the HEMA, used to sell goods using standard prices, with everything having a Standard price 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. [7] HEMA is the abbreviation of Dutch standardized prices company (in Dutch: Hollandse Eenheids Prijzen Maatschappij). The HEMA has some 500 stores per 2011 and operates also in Belgium, Germany and France. Stores:

  • In Belgium: HEMA.
  • In France: HEMA, Prisunic, Monoprix, Uniprix, M. 1-2-3
  • In Germany: EuroShop, HEMA, Pfennigland, TEDi
  • In Italy: NINEtNINE cent paradise
  • In Ireland: Euro 2
  • In Luxembourg: HEMA
  • In Malta: Tal-Lira
  • In the Netherlands: Euroland, HEMA.
  • In Norway: Tier´n[citation needed], which is a colloquialism for ten kroner = USD 1.75.
  • In Sweden: Bubbeltian, called by some Tian, which is colloquial for ten kronor (crowns) = USD 1.60. Another chain that has been spreading in Sweden during the last seven years is Dollarstore,[8] a chain where everything costs either 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and steps of 50 up to 500 SEK which is roughly equal one, two, three, four, five or ten dollars (it is not related to the American store.)
  • In United Kingdom: Poundland, Poundworld, Poundwise, Poundstretcher, 99p Stores
  • In Denmark: Tiger, which means tiger as well as being a pun on the word for the Danish ten-krone coin. The chain is owned by the company "Zebra" and recently began releasing original music, after a campaign on the company's website found them several artists.
  • In Russia: Fixprice (36 rubles)


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

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

One major player in 100 Yen Shops is Hirotake Yano, the founder of Daiso Industries Co. Ltd., which runs 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, Asia, and the Middle East.[9]

In India, they are known as 49 & 99 shops.[citation needed][10] Typical price range in these shops is 49 & 99 Indian Rupees. 49 Rupees was approximately equal to one US dollar when these started, also 49 and 99 are near rounds of 50 and 100 respectively to draw the shoppers. Items are generally cheap gift articles, toys, watches, office stationery, and crockery.

In China, two yuan (or three yuan, 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-dollar-shops (USD 1.28) to compete in the market, and thus there are now "8-dollar-shops" (USD 1.02) and even "2-dollar-shops" (USD 0.26) in Hong Kong, in order to compete at lower prices, especially in less affluent communities. Low prices are achievable due to the lack of sales tax in Hong Kong 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.


South America

In Argentine, variety stores are called todo por dos pesos ($A 2.00).

In Brazil, these stores are called um e noventa e nove (one and ninety-nine, meaning BRL 1.99, about US 1.20) usually written as 1,99 (note the decimal comma). They began to appear in the decade of 1990 possibly as a consequence of both the increase in the purchasing power of the low income classes after the curbing of hyperinflation and the decrease in middle-class net income due to a gradual increase in the national average tax load[citation needed].

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, Chile



Price points

99 Cents Only store - Dallas, TX

The store is usually named for the price of the merchandise sold in the store (but see below); the names vary by area and time, as each country has a different currency, and the nominal price of the goods has increased over time due to inflation. Modern names include:

Some variety stores are not true "single price-point" stores despite their name. Often the name of the store, such as "dollar store", is only a suggestion, and can be misleading. Some stores that call themselves "dollar stores", such as Dollar General and Family Dollar in the United States, have items that cost more or less than a dollar. Some stores also sell goods priced at multiples of the named price. The problem with the name is also compounded in some countries by sales tax, which leads to taxable items costing the customer more than a dollar. Some purists maintain that the phrase "dollar store", in the strict sense, should only refer to stores which sell only items that cost exactly $1.

Some stores can have prices which are not round multiples of currency, such as the "99-cent store" or "88-yen store". As inflation increases the nominative price of goods, the names of such stores must also change over time.

The £100 Shop in Dalston in the United Kingdom is a "hyperbolic reworking" of the variety store concept. On its website and at a physical storefront, the £100 Shop presents items obtained in a £1 shop as if they were unique luxury items.[11]

See also

Emblem-money.svg Business and economics portal


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Variety store — a retail store selling a wide variety of items, especially of low price, as in a {five and ten}. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • variety store — UK US noun [C] US COMMERCE ► a store that sells many different things at low prices: »In Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, variety stores and conventional self service outlets are experiencing a decline in growth …   Financial and business terms

  • variety store — ☆ variety store n. a retail store that sells a wide variety of relatively small and inexpensive items …   English World dictionary

  • variety store — index market (business) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • variety store — noun also variety shop : a retail establishment dealing in a large variety of merchandise especially of low unit value compare five and ten, general store * * * noun, pl ⋯ stores [count] US : a store that sells many different kinds of products… …   Useful english dictionary

  • variety store — {n.} A store that sells many different kinds of things, especially items that are fairly small and in everyday use. * /I went into a variety store and bought some paint./ * /Five and ten cent stores are a kind of variety store./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • variety store — {n.} A store that sells many different kinds of things, especially items that are fairly small and in everyday use. * /I went into a variety store and bought some paint./ * /Five and ten cent stores are a kind of variety store./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • variety\ store — noun A store that sells many different kinds of things, especially items that are fairly small and in everyday use. I went into a variety store and bought some paint. Five and ten cent stores are a kind of variety store …   Словарь американских идиом

  • variety store — noun A shop where many small and inexpensive items can be bought. the enduring old variety store that sells out of town newspapers, warm unshelled peanuts, and dirty magazines for queers as well as straights …   Wiktionary

  • variety store — Synonyms and related words: boutique, chain store, co op, concession, cooperative, countinghouse, country store, department store, dime store, discount house, discount store, emporium, establishment, five and ten, general store, house, magasin,… …   Moby Thesaurus

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