What do people buy from corner stores in China?

I spent China’s October holiday traveling across the country on a work trip. In each city I visited, I went to a small corner store (known in China as xiaomaibu 小卖部). Such stores sell a range of goods similar to convenience stores, but usually packed into a tiny space. Many xiaomaibu‘s are so small that you cannot walk into them, but have to ask the vendor for what you want through a window.

I asked the person manning each store to tell me the most popular item they sold, and then took a portrait.

Xiaomaibu Chengdu

Chengdu 成都
Population: 14.05 Million
Name: Fan Wei 范伟
Top selling item: Lottery tickets (彩票)
China’s has two major lotteries; one supports sports teams and training, the other funds state welfare systems. According to the Ministry of Finance, China’s lottery sales totaled 138.12 billion yuan ($21.58 billion) during the first eight months of 2011.

Xiaomaibu Shenyang

Shenyang 沈阳市
Population: 8.1 Million
Name: Gong Nanhua 宫华南
Top selling item: Uni-President Iced Black Tea 统一冰红茶

Xiaomaibu Shanghai

Shanghai 上海市
23 Million
Tang Zaihua 唐仔华 
Top selling item: 
Mai Dong Energy Drink (Robust Group product) 脉动

Xiaomaibu Guangzhou

Guangzhou 广州市
10.182 Million
Name: Qiu Xinfu 邱心富
Top selling item: Double Happiness Cigarettes 红双喜香烟

Xiaomaibu Zhengzhou Xiaomaibu Zhengzhou

Zhengzhou 郑州
Population: 8.63 Million
Name: Zhao Xinzhi 赵新枝
Top selling item: Golden Leaf Cigarette 黄金叶香烟
Ms. Zhao (top picture) requested a portrait of her grandson Feng Yi (冯毅 – bottom picture) appear with the Golden Leaf Cigarettes with this article.

Xiaomaibu Beijing

Beijing 北京
Population: 19.61 Million
Name: Dou Jiadong 窦家东
Top selling item: Huiyuan orange juice 汇源橙汁
Notes: This store is in a Beijing neighborhood where many foreigners live.

— Research for this report by Wang Miao 王淼 .

— Further photos by Jonah Kessel from the October holiday are on Danwei here, or see Jonah Kessel’s website for more. 

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