A sari-sari store, or neighborhood sundry store, is a convenience store found in the Philippines. The word sari-sari is Tagalog meaning "variety" or "sundry". Such stores form an important economic and social location in a Filipino community and is ubiquitous in neighborhoods and streets. Sari-sari stores tend to be family-run and privately owned  operating within the shopkeeper's residence. Commodities are displayed in a large screen-covered or metal barred window in front of the shop. Candies in recycled jars, canned goods and cigarettes are displayed while cooking oil, salt and sugar are stored at the back of the shop. Prepaid mobile phone credits are provided. The sari-sari store operates with a small revolving fund, and generally doesn't provide perishable goods requiring refrigeration. The few that do, have refrigerators to store soft drinks, beers and bottled water.
While many of the Sari-sari store owners may be un-schooled in business, they are an integral part of the eco-system of society and contribute to the grassroots micro-economy. According to Magna Kultura Foundation, the network of Sari-sari stores nationwide account for almost seventy per cent (70%) sales of manufactured consumer food products, which makes it a valuable part of the economy and an important conduit for making vital goods available to Filipino neighborhood communities. While the Sari-sari store owners are small business people, they are the backbone of the grassroots economy. It is estimated that 800,000 sari-sari stores hold a substantial portion of the Philippine retail market, and accounts for a significant chunk of the country’s GDP. About 13 percent or Php 1.3 trillion of the Philippines GDP of Php 9.7 trillion in Y-2011 came from retail, which is composed largely of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) or small businesses like sari-sari stores.
Often sari-sari store owners put a markup of about 10% on average, compared to the 20% markup average of the alternative 24/7 convenience stores such as 7-11, so most Filipinos tend to buy at sari-sari stores whenever possible. Sari-sari stores have higher prices when compared to supermarkets but provides several benefits to their customers. The sari-sari store allows members of the community easy access to basic commodities at low costs. Without them, villagers must go to the nearest market town which may too far from the village itself. In the Philippines, following the concept of tingi or retail, a customer can buy 'units' of the product rather than whole package. For example, one can buy a single cigarette for one peso (0.02 US dollars) rather than a whole pack. This is convenient for those who cannot buy the whole package or do not need much of it. Even though buying products through tingi can be practical for the buyer, its cumulative costs may be more expensive than buying the product's regular units. The sari-sari store also saves the customer extra transportation costs, especially those in rural areas, since some towns can be very far from the nearest market or grocery. The store may also allow purchases on credit to their customers. The stores may also act as trading centers in rural areas. Farmers and fishermen may directly trade their products to the sari-sari store in return for basic articles, fuel and other supplies.
The sari-sari store also saves the customer extra transportation costs, especially those in rural areas, since some towns can be very far from the nearest market or grocery. The store also serves as a secondary or even primary source of income for the shopkeepers. The owners can buy commodities in bulk in groceries then sell them in the store at a mark-up price. Trucks usually deliver LPG and soft drinks to the store itself. The store requires little investment since the products are cheap and only a few modifications on one side of a house are needed to convert it to a sari-sari store. The sari-sari store also allows credit purchases from its "suki" (repeat customers known to the store owners). They usually keep a record of their customers' outstanding balances on a school notebook and demand payments on paydays.
Magna Kultura Foundation notes that the Sari-sari store is part of Philippine culture, and they have become an integral part of every Filipino’s life. It is a constant feature of residential neighborhoods in the Philippines both in rural and urban areas, proliferating even in the poorest communities. About ninety-three percent (93%) of all Sari-sari stores nationwide are located in residential communities. The neighborhood Sari-sari store (variety or general) is part and parcel of daily life for the average Filipino. Any essential household good that might be missing from one’s pantry –-- from basic food items like sugar, coffee and cooking condiments, to other necessities like soap or shampoo –-- is most conveniently purchased from the nearby Sari-sari store at economically-sized quantities which are affordable to common citizens.
The sari-sari store offers a place where people can meet. The benches provided in front of the store are usually full of men and women. Some men would spend some time drinking while women discuss the latest local news. Youths also use the place to hang out. Children would also rest here in the afternoon after playing and buy soft drinks and snacks.
In popular culture
- Pinoy rock band Eraserheads' song Tindahan ni Aling Nena (aling Nena's Store; from the album UltraElectroMagneticPop!) tells the story of a man buying food at a sari-sari store and his attempts to court the affections of the eponymous storeowner's daughter.
- Pinstrup-Andersen, Marito Garcia, Per (1987). The pilot food price subsidy scheme in the Philippines : its impact on income, food consumption, and nutritional status. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute. ISBN 0896290638.
- "Business at its most basic: putting up a retailing store". www.serdef.org. Small Enterprises Research and Development Foundation. 16 June 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Schelzig, Karin (2005). Poverty in the Philippines: Income, Assets, and Access. Asian Development Bank. ISBN 9715615635.
- Schelzig, Karin (2005). Poverty in the Philippines : income, assets, and access. Metro Manila: Asian Development Bank. p. 131. ISBN 9715615635. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, Volume 35, Issue 2007. University of San Carlos. 2007. p. 257. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
- Technology and Home Economics i (worktext)2002 Edition. Rex Bookstore, Inc. p. 370. ISBN 9712328694. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
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