Variety store

Variety store

A variety store or price-point retailer is a retail store that sells inexpensive items, usually with a single price point for all items in the store. Typical merchandise includes cleaning supplies, toys, and candy. "Variety store" may also refer to a convenience store, especially in Canada, the Philippines, and in northern New England in the United States.

Price points

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.


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 and automotive supplies.

Some items sold at a dollar store would be a dollar or less anyway, whereas other items are a substantially better deal. There are three reasons a dollar 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 two such examples. Some stores may have a section of single price point (dollar) items combined on the same premises with a section selling larger, relatively 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.


The concept of the variety store originated with the five and ten, or nickel and dime or dimestore, a store where everything cost either five cents (a nickel) or ten cents (a dime). The originator of the concept may be Woolworths, which began in 1878 in Watertown, New York. Other five and tens that existed in the USA included W.T. Grant, J.J. Newberry's, McCrory's, Kresge, McClellan's, and Ben Franklin Stores. These stores originally featured merchandise priced at only five cents or ten cents, although later in the 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". Given that $0.05 in 1913 when adjusted for inflation is $1.02 in 2006 dollars, this retailing concept has shown remarkable vitality over the years.

Well-known five and dimes included:

Of these, only Duckwall-ALCO, and Ben Franklin continue to exist in this form, while Kresge's and Walton's went on to become mega-retailers Kmart and Wal-Mart.



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]") or Todo a 100, 300, 500 y más ("everything for 100, 300, 500 or more"). Coloquially, 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 Sweden, there is a Dollarstore chain with fixed prices of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and steps of 50 up to 500 SEK.


In Japan, 100-yen shops (百円ショップ hyaku-en shoppu) or "One coin shops" have been proliferating across Japan since around 2001. This is considered by some an effect of decade long recession of Japanese economy.

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 "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.

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, department stores have opened their own 10-dollar-shop (USD 1.28) to compete in the market, and thus there are now "8-dollar-shop" (USD 1.02) in Hong Kong, in order to compete with a lower price. Note that there is no sales tax in Hong Kong, but the relative price is higher than in Japan or the US.

In India, they are known as 49 & 99 shops. 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.

South America

In Brazil, these stores are called um e noventa e nove (one and ninety-nine, meaning BRL 1.99, about US 90 cents) 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.

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

Modern notable variety stores

Variety stores are often franchises.

North America


  • In United Kingdom: Poundland, Poundworld, 99p Stores
  • In the Netherlands: Hema originally a "guilder store", now a department store
  • In Germany: Pfennigland, TEDi
  • In Malta: Tal-Lira
  • In France: Prisunic, Monoprix
  • In Norway: Tier´n, which is a colloquialism for ten kroner = USD 1.40.
  • In Sweden: Bubbeltian, called by some Tian, which is a colloquialism for ten kronor (crowns) = USD 1.25. Another chain that has been spreading in Sweden during the last seven years is Dollarstore , a chain where everything costs either 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or 100 skr, which is supposed to roughly equal one, two, three, four, five or ten dollars. It is not related to the American store.
  • In Denmark: Tiger, which means tiger (the animal) as well as being a pun on words for a ten-kroner coin Danish krone (crowns). The chain is owned by corporation "Zebra". The Tiger chain recently began releasing original music, after a campaign on the company's website found them several artists.



  • In Australia: The Reject Shop, The basement, Go-Lo, Crazy Clark's, The Warehouse, Chickenfeed (Tasmania), Red Dot (Western Australia), Browse in and Save (South Australia),
  • In New Zealand: The $2 Shop, The Warehouse


In economic terms, the pricing strategy of dollar stores is inefficient as some items may actually be sold elsewhere for less than a dollar. 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.

Most merchandise in these stores is imported cheaply from foreign countries, most commonly in Asia. Usually merchandise is imported by a general merchandise importer/wholesaler, then sold to the stores at a wholesale rate.

Although some people may compare dollar 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.

In popular culture

See also

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