Convenience Stores in Taiwan



One of my biggest (and most pleasant) surprises when I first visited Taiwan was its convenience stores. Unlike the often sad and boring convenience stores I had been to in the United States, I encountered bright, welcoming, spotlessly clean and well-organized stores offering a dazzling array of merchandise of every kind. Rather than just a place of last resort to shop, convenience stores have become an integral part of Taiwanese life.

Though convenience stores in Taiwan may share a name with their Western counterparts, they are not the same. In addition to selling snacks, beverages, and cigarettes, most convenience stores in Taiwan are part restaurant, coffee shop, grocery store, snack bar, bank, ticket vendor, print shop, pharmacy and post office — not just places to grab a cup of coffee, a newspaper or a bag of chips. The main item that they do not sell is gasoline.

Open 24-hours seven days a week, these stores offer an air-conditioned refuge from storms, heat and humidity, with bathrooms that are free, clean and open to the public. Many provide free Wi-Fi connections and comfortable dining areas where local people like to linger. Over the years, I’ve probably visited over 100 convenience stores throughout Taiwan, and found their staff members to be invariably friendly, helpful and efficient. Many know at least a few words of English.

By the end of 2023, there were 13,706 convenience stores around Taiwan’s main island – one for every 1703 people. And unless you’re visiting a remote tea plantation or hiking in the mountains, you’re likely to find a convenience store less than a five-minute walk from wherever you may be.

There are four main convenience store chains in Taiwan: 7-Eleven, Family Mart, OK-Mart, and Hi-Life.

7-Eleven – affectionately called “Seven” by locals – is the oldest and largest chain of convenience stores in Taiwan. The first 14 stores opened in 1974, and a total of 6859 stores were open by the end of 2023. Operated by Uni-President Enterprises, a large Taiwanese food conglomerate, 7-Eleven is said to offer the widest selection of Western-style snacks, along with a large range of hard liquor, a good selection of Muji-brand stationery, and even clothing items and umbrellas. 7-Eleven is constantly expanding its food selection, the latest offerings including tea eggs, microwaved rice and noodle dishes, plus a large daily selection of fresh fruit. Most stores feature an indoor seating area (usually by a window facing the street) where customers can enjoy a beverage and snack while watching the world go by.

Family Mart is the second largest convenience store chain in Taiwan. Founded by a Japanese company, Family Mart had more than 4230 stores in Taiwan by 2024. Family Mart is said to offer more Asian foods than 7-Eleven, and accepts the highest number of bill payments among convenience stores in Taiwan, with over 100 million bills paid per year. In addition to bill-paying, railway tickets and package sending and pickup, many stores offer fax, cloud storage, photocopying and printing services. You can also add money to your cell phone account there.
In addition to their delicious green-tea pastry, one of the things I like most about Family Mart are their baked sweet potatoes, sold by weight. After a long morning walk in the foothills around Taichung, a rest stop at the local Family Mart for a hot sweet potato and a freshly-brewed cup of coffee is a happy personal memory.

A Family Mart at a Freeway rest area, Nantou County.
Photo by Nathaniel Altman.

OK Mart is part of the Canadian-based Circle K group of stores. While OK Mart has less of an international food selection than Family Mart or 7-Eleven, it offers more food choices that are typically Taiwanese. Like Family Mart, baked sweet potatoes are on the menu, along with traditional Taiwanese and Japanese snacks like instant noodles, rice balls and sushi.

An OK Mart in a shopping mall, Taipei.

Hi-Life is a Taiwanese-based convenience store chain that first opened in 1980 with nine stores. Considered more “Taiwanese” than other chains, some Hi-Life stores don’t even stock Coca-Cola products, but focus more on Taiwanese treats like grass jelly teas, soy-based drinks, and red bean and taro ice cream bars. The chain now has over 1000 stores, many of which bake their own bread and pastry.



Greatest Convenience Store of All Time? - Touring 7-ELEVEN

A cool video about a Taiwanese 7-Eleven by Nnenia Yasmeen.


© 2024 by Nathaniel Altman

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