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"Corner shop" redirects here. For the British band, see Cornershop.

The general store or general merchandise store is a store that carries a general line of merchandise.

In Australia, Canadamarker and the United Statesmarker, a store named or subtitled "general store" is traditionally a retailer located in a small town or in a rural area. It carries a broad selection of merchandise crammed into a relatively small space where people from the town and surrounding rural areas come to purchase all their general goods. The store carries routine stock and obtains special orders from warehouses.

In the United Kingdommarker, similar retailers tend to be referred to as a village shop in rural areas or a corner shop in urban areas or suburbs. Bodeguita comes from the Spanish language as a diminutive of bodega which means "small store" or "small warehouse". Traditionally, Bodeguita existed selling general merchandise, then they were replaced slowly by the chain store, the same way large US chains have practically eliminated the "mom and pop" store.

General stores often sell staple food items such as milk and bread, and various household goods such as hardware and electrical supplies. The concept of the general store is very old, and although some still exist, there are far fewer than there once were, due to urbanization, urban sprawl, and the relatively recent phenomenon of big-box stores.

By country


In Canadamarker the French term depanneur is used for a general store in the province of Quebec. The oldest continually run general store in Canada is Trousdale's, located in Sydenham, Ontario, which has been operated by the Trousdale family since 1836.

United Kingdom

Village shops have become increasingly rare in the densely populated parts of Englandmarker, although they remain common in remote rural areas of Scotlandmarker, Walesmarker and Northern Irelandmarker along with some lesser populated areas of England such as North Yorkshire, Northumberlandmarker and The Lake Districtmarker.

Their rarity in England is due to several factors, such as the rise in car ownership, competition from large chain supermarkets, the rising cost of village properties, and the increasing trend of the wealthy to own holiday homes in picturesque villages, consequently houses which used to be occupied full-time are often vacant for long periods.

Of those villages in England who still have have shops, these days they are often a combination of services under one roof to increase the likelihood of profit and survival. Extra services may include a post office, private business services such as tearooms, cafes, and bed and breakfast accommodation; or state services such as libraries and General Practitioner (GP) or Dental clinics; and charity partners such as Women's Institute (WI) coffee mornings held on the day most elderly villagers might collect their weekly pensions.

Some villages now no longer have either shop or post office, but the village pub has largely survived (although recent economic downturns and changed drinking laws have begun to impact upon and change the survival of even this village stalwart) and these often function as small shops or post offices as well. Many village pubs have become notable dining experiences, attracting trade from their villagers, tourists and nearby town dwellers with their trendy chefs or local produce/organic menus. In village areas close to Towns and Cities with a modern, mixed ethnic picture, out of town dining experiences of an ethnic kind have become popular in former pub premises. Most notable are large Indian and Chinese restaurants in areas such as Leicestershiremarker, in the English East Midlands.

Community shops have become popular in some villages, often jointly owned and run by many villagers as a co-operative. The Village Retail Services Association ([79318]) promotes the role and function of the village shop in the UK. Many modern village shops choose to stock items which draw in customers from neighbouring areas who are seeking locally sourced, organic and specialist produce such as local cuts of meat, local cheeses, wines etc.

In towns and cities, the corner shop has largely survived by dominating the local and light night convenience market.

The 1970s saw the death of the traditional grocery shop, which would have once dominated in the kind of buildings most corner shops operate from today, such old traditional family grocery stores began to face competition on two fronts: on the one hand from immigrant-owned corner shops, trading longer hours (typically British Asian families), and on the other from the rise of the supermarket, which amalgamated many specialist retailers such as butchers, bakers, and grocers under one roof at increasingly cheaper prices and with room for a greater choice of products. With the gradual loss of the traditional grocers came the loss of many aspects of old British shopping culture such as grocery deliveries and being enabled to have a "Tic" account with the grocer, a form of unofficial advanced credit. The cornershop is now much more the local convenience shop than the family grocer of days gone by.

Cornershops are usually so called because they are located on the corner plot or street end of a row of terraced housing, often Victorian or Edwardian factory workers' houses. The doorway into the shop was usually on the corner of the plot to maximise shop floor space within, this also offered two display windows onto two opposing streets. Many have now altered the original shop front layout in favour of a mini-supermarket style. Although it is common that cornershops found in the UKmarker were former grocer shops, other specialist retailers also occupied such slots and have suffered the same fate of being largely replaced by super and hypermarkets, such retailers as greengrocers, bakers, butchers and fishmongers.

In popular culture

Many British TV and Radio series, especially soap operas, feature corner shops or village shops as cornerstones for community gatherings and happenings. Prominent examples are the Village shop in Ambridge, the fictional village in the BBC Radio 4 series, The Archers, (1950-present day). Or the ITV1 soap opera Coronation Streetmarker (1960-present day) featuring a cornershop; it was owned, until recently, by Alf Roberts the grocer and after his death in the late 1990s was bought by Dev Alahan, reflecting this common change in British culture. The dying days and changing culture of the traditional British grocer was explored to great effect in the BBC TV comedy series Open All Hours (1976-1985), set in the real suburb of Balbymarker in Doncastermarker, the shop front used for the street scenes in the series does actually exist in the area and is a hair salon in reality. The BBC Scotland comedy series Still Game has a corner shop as a recurring location where characters can meet and gossip; the actor who plays its owner, Navid Harris (Sanjeev Kohli), plays a similar role as Ramesh in the Radio 4 comedy series Fags, Mags and Bags which is set entirely in Ramesh's shop.

The band Cornershop in part base their image on the perception that many convenience stores are now owned by British Asian people. In terms of British popular culture these media representations give some idea of the importance attached to local shops in the national psyche and as a mainstay of community life.

Changing use of the term store in the UK

In the UK, small retail outlets are traditionally referred to as shops, and a store is solely a place of storage such as a warehouse rather than a retail outlet.

However since the Second World War many American usage has been accepted, including the use of store for a simple retail outlet.

United States

During the first half of the 20th century, general stores were displaced in many areas of the United Statesmarker by many different types of specialized retailers. But from the 1960s through present, many small specialized retailers are in turn crushed by the so-called "category killers", which are "big-box" wholesale-type retailers large enough to carry the majority of best-selling goods in a specific category like sporting goods or office supplies.

However, the convenience inherent in the general store has been revived in the form of the modern convenience store and the hypermarket, which can be seen as taking the general store or convenience store concept to its largest possible implementation.

See also


  1. North American Industry Classification (NAICS) 2002, "452 General Merchandise Stores (US)"

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