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OXXO: Mexico’s Answer to the 24-Hour Mini Mart

Monday, July 26th, 2010

An OXXO storefront in downtown Puebla, Mexico.Forget toothpaste? Need an antacid? Crave a candy bar? Convenience stores can be lifesavers for travelers — or at least make the trip more comfortable. Throughout Mexico, mini marts are an important hub of local activity, too: Residents can pay their cable and utility bills, buy potable water, reload the credit on their cell phones, and more.

Most neighborhoods have at least one corner market (typically called la tienda de la esquina or una miscelanea in Spanish) that sells miscellaneous goods as varied as tissue, AA batteries, ripe avocados, coffee, and lottery tickets. Many major cities, including Puebla and Cholula, also have OXXO (pronounced “OX-oh”).

With some 7,300 outlets in 350 cities nationwide, OXXO is the largest chain of convenience stores in Mexico. The chain is owned by FEMSA — the company behind Tecate, Indio, and Sol beers — and run largely by franchisees. FEMSA opened its first OXXO in Monterrey the 1970s to avoid using third-party distributors for its beer; earlier this year, it sold its brewery to Heineken for $5.7 billion.

“[OXXO] has become one of my favorite places for hotel essentials like snacks, water, booze, and cigars,” writes blogger El Gringo Guapo. “Perhaps one of the best things about this wonderful [place] that is so different from where we are from is that they carry a modest selection of booze. I’m not talking beer or wine coolers here; I’m talking tequila, scotch, whiskey and rum, and it’s reasonably priced! I bought a bottle of 200 mL bottle of El Jimador for 30 pesos, $2.38! This costs around 15 bucks in the states. Mmm, REAL tequila.”

A quick scan of the Yellow Pages reveals more than 100 OXXO stores in Puebla. Here, OXXO competes with scores of locally owned shops and supermarkets like Walmart, Mega, Soriana, and Superama. The chain’s goal, according to its corporate website, is to provide “a wide range of products and services that are useful and practical for daily life.”

Visitors will be able to spot OXXO by its prominent red, white, and gold signage all over town. Some locations are open 24 hours, a rarity in Puebla that gives OXXO a competitive edge over other stores.

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