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Sari-Sari Stores – Bringing Variety To Philippine Life


Sari-Sari – or “Variety” stores were traditionally run by older ladies.

Many Filipinos’ ambition is to make a living by selling basic commodities in small packs in a store called “sari-sari”. This is an ever-present feature in any Filipino neighborhood is the basic form of retail business in the Philippines, and the easiest type to establish, pre-dating the supermarket and big brand convenience stores.


“Sari-sari” is a Tagalog word that means “variety”, and in a sari-sari store, you will find a wide range of consumer products. Most of these are sold in smaller packs, sachets or one at a time – such as with cigarettes. Children especially cannot afford to buy a whole pack buy individual candies, wafer sticks, bubble gum, yoghurt and gelatin cups and small toys.



Cluttered but complete: A typical sari-sari store setup


Basically, a sari-sari store sells various stuff that people need at home. For household needs, you can also buy salt, sugar, vinegar, pepper, cooking oil, spices, peeled garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, eggs, noodles, biscuits, canned goods, coffee, softdrinks, beer and alcohol, rice, candy, cigarettes, rice, school supplies, soap, shampoo, prepaid load or even charge for your phone – all in small quantities not available in larger grocery stores.


In essence, they are similar to the old family stores in Western countries – the corner shop or neighbourhood grocers, but unlike them. Many sari-sari stores also make and sell cooked food for breakfast, lunch or dinner, along with beer that transforms some into a quasi-bar.


Most sari-sari store proprietors used to be old ladies as they are usually left at home doing chores and caring for children. They found a way of helping their spouses earn money for the household by opening a sari-sari store.


Currently though, more and more young people are opening sari-sari stores as they see it an extra source of income, and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) or family in big cities pay for their relatives to have a store.



Sari Sari stores are increasingly run by young members of the family.


To most people, this is just a store, but it can have great significance in a community, sari sari stores provide services that unites a neighborhood and gives convenience to a busy person.



Author: Rhett Kinneas  


Photo source:

Smiling old lady, photo by Misstiza –
Sachets everywhere –
Pretty girl in a sari-sari store –



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