Kiosco de barrio: Why Argentines remain local to their local shop

Despite the growth of chain stores, this typically Latin American business remains a family one. Inspiring customer loyalty and offering a friendly ear, 70% of Argentines visit once a week, a new survey reveals.


Redactor especializado en Ciencia, Salud & Tecnología.

In Argentina, the kiosco de barrio is an iconic part of the local neighbourhood. 


Few businesses share their characteristics: they are usually family-owned and run by members of the family, sometimes for generations. They open for extended hours and offer everything from cigarettes and drinks to sweets and photocopies – sometimes, even cleaning products.

In addition, they are businesses that continue to keep the lines of communication with customers open, offering a friendly conversational space for regulars. Nevertheless, Argentina’s kioscos – those one-stop-suits-all convenience stores – are in the midst of change, with many now offering new services. These are the findings of a recent consumer study that interviewed 500 people in order to take an „x-ray“ of the market and its current place in social consumption.

„It is estimated that there are 110,000 kioscos in Argentina, one for every 400 inhabitants. In other words, one of the highest rates in the world,” explained Constanza Cilley, the director of the Voices! consultancy firm and author of the study. “It is a ‘small’ but important channel, which is maintained between economic cycles and continues to help us at any time, both for scheduled purchases and for the temptation of impulse buying.“

According to the survey, 90 percent of Argentines shop at kioscos, with seven out of 10 doing so on a weekly basis. Only four percent of those surveyed said they never shopped at convenience stores, Cilley told Perfil.

What is it about Argentina that drives so many to shop at kioscos, given that they are practically non-existent in so many other countries? Several reasons – for one, that 90 percent are essentially run by the owner and their extended family, offering a regular and friendly face to customers.

“They are businesses that tend to stay in the same place for years and years, which makes it easier to establish a solid relationship with the customer,“ Adrián Palacios, the vice-president of the Unión Kiosqueros de la República Argentina (UKRA), told Perfil

Palacios, who has owned a family-run kiosco for decades, explained that „a relationship of trust tends to develop.”

“There are neighbours who leave the owner the key to their house so that he can give it to a relative later. Others buy something but leave it here so that we can give it to their child later.”

Trust contributes to customer loyalty: Cilley’s research highlighted that 68 percent of respondents said they plan to „always go to the same kiosk.“ Unsurprisingly, proximity (69 percent) was the main reason, but „practicality“ was also mentioned (40 percent), while 12 percent explicitly highlighted their „relationship with the kiosk owner.“

Another striking fact that emerges from the survey is that almost half of Argentines consider themselves to be regular visitors, frequenting a store multiple times in a week.

„Forty-six per cent of those surveyed said they shop at kioscos more than four times a week,“ revealed Cilley.

Shoppers tend to be young (57 percent are aged between 25 and 34), male (53 percent) and have a low income (57 percent), according to the study. Men prefer to buy soft drinks, sweets and chocolates, biscuits, packaged foods and products, and snacks. Women, on the other hand, go mainly for sweets and chocolates, biscuits, soft drinks, snacks and dairy products.

Yet despite the modernisation of convenience stores and their offering of new services, some things never change – for example, in the use of cash.

“Cash is still king,” said Palacios, who is also a director of the Confederación Latinoamericana de Kioscos y Almacenes (“Latin American Confederation of Kiosks and Stores”) business group. 

Sixty percent of the sector is already accepting payment via e-wallets and payment apps, the survey found, but 95 percent of transactions are still carried out with bills and coins.

For Palacios, the future of the kiosco de barrio lies in expanding the products and services available. “One possibility is to add more offers related to logistics, [the] receiving and dispatching packages related to e-commerce – we often have refrigeration [at the stores], should it be a perishable product,” he explained.

An increasing number of services can now be paid at the stores, including the charging of SUBE public transport cards. But for many, the element that ensures their continued relevance is the fact that the kiosco is part of the everyday life of Argentine families.

This is where the significant proportion of respondents who „chat“ with the store attendant comes into play. One in three customers say they talk about banal topics such as the weather or prices, but 14 percent say they can have long conversations and consider those behind the till to be „someone I trust.“

In short, this ‘open-door’ business – sometimes literally without doors – makes it easy to build a close relationship between seller and customer. This helps explain why 50 percent of respondents to the survey said that the kiosco is a true national „icon.“

Why we return (again and again) to kioscos

Quizzed as to why they visit convenience stories, respondents said:

– 79 percent visit to buy sweets, drinks or snacks
– 32 percent visit to charge their SUBE public transport card
– 26 percent visit to make photocopies or print something
– 21 percent visit to pay services or utilities
– 12 percent visit to put credit on their mobile phone
– 9 percent visit to buy a present
– 3 percent visit to use the Internet.

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