A sari-sari store or waróng, or in English as corner store, is a convenience store found in the Philippines. The word sari-sari is Tagalog meaning “variety” or “strangers”. These stores occupy an important economic and social location in a Filipino community and are ubiquitous in neighborhoods and along streets. Sari-sari shops tend to be family-run and privately owned that operate within the merchant’s residence. Commodities are displayed in a large screen-covered or metal-barred window in front of the store. Candy in recycled jars, canned goods and cigarettes are on display while cooking oil, salt and sugar are stored in the back of the store. Prepaid cell phone credits are provided. The sari-sari shop operates on a small revolving fund, and generally does not offer perishable items that require refrigeration. The few that do have refrigerators carry sodas, beers, and bottled water.
Economic value of Sari Sari Shops in the Philippines
Sari-sari shops are an integral part of the ecosystem of society and contribute to the grassroots micro-economy. According to the Magna Kultura Foundation, the network of sari-sari stores across the country accounts for almost seventy percent (70%) of sales of manufactured consumer food products, making it a valuable part of the economy and a important conduit for making vital assets available to Filipino neighborhoods. Sari-sari shops are the backbone of the grassroots economy. An estimated 800,000 sari-sari shops hold a significant share of the national retail market and the country’s GDP. 13 percent or Php 1.3 trillion of the Philippines’ GDP of Php 9.7 trillion in 2011 came from retail trade, which is mainly made up of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) or small businesses such as sari-sari shops.
Saree shop owners often apply a markup of about 10% on average, compared to the average 20% markup of 24/7 convenience store alternatives such as 7-11 , which is why most Filipinos tend to shop at sari-sari stores when possible. Sari-sari shops have higher prices compared to supermarkets, but they provide several benefits to their customers. The sari-sari shop provides easy access to basic products at low cost. Without them, the villagers must go to the nearest trading town, which can be quite far from the village. In the Philippines, following the tingi or retailer concept, a customer can buy “units” of the product instead of a complete package. For example, one can buy a single cigarette for five (5) pesos (US$0.10) instead of a full pack. This is convenient for those who can’t buy the full package or don’t need much, though it is cumulatively more expensive. The sari-sari store also saves the customer from paying additional transportation costs, especially in rural areas, as some cities may be very far from the nearest market or supermarket. The store may also allow purchases on credit. The stores also act as shopping malls in rural areas. Farmers and fishermen can trade their produce directly to the sari-sari shop in exchange for basic items, fuel, and other supplies.
Owners can buy food products in bulk and then sell them in the store at a markup. The trucks deliver LPG and soft drinks directly to the store. The shop requires little investment as the products are cheap and only a few modifications are needed on one side of the house to turn it into a sari-sari shop. The sari-sari shop also allows purchases on credit from its “suki” (regular customers known to the shop owners). They typically keep track of their customers’ outstanding balances in a school notebook and demand payment on paydays.
The lifespan of sari-sari shops is highly variable, with many closing after just a few weeks due to insufficient revenue or poor management by owners who have limited formal education.