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With their bright yellow, red and white signs, ABC stores are a ubiquitous sight across the Hawaiian islands. If you’ve ever visited Hawaii, you’ve likely wondered why there are so many ABC stores, sometimes clustered together on the same block. Well, the reasons behind the abundance of ABC stores in Hawaii stem from the unique history, economy, and laws in the Aloha State.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: There are so many ABC stores in Hawaii because of the state’s unusual liquor licensing laws, tourism industry, and the business strategy of the stores’ parent company to saturate regions with multiple locations.

In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll explore the growth of ABC stores over the decades and the several key factors that have allowed them to proliferate across Hawaii.

History of ABC Stores in Hawaii

ABC Stores founded in 1964

The story of ABC Stores in Hawaii begins in 1964 when Sidney Kosasa opened the first store on Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue. Originally named “ABC Mart,” the store aimed to provide a convenient shopping experience for both locals and tourists. It quickly gained popularity due to its wide selection of products and competitive prices.

What sets ABC Stores apart from other retailers is their focus on catering to the needs of tourists. They offer a variety of products that are popular with vacationers, such as souvenirs, beach essentials, snacks, and beverages. With their strategic locations in popular tourist destinations, ABC Stores became a one-stop shop for travelers looking for convenience.

Today, ABC Stores has become synonymous with convenience in Hawaii. With over 70 locations spread across the islands, their iconic logo can be seen almost everywhere you go. From bustling cities to remote beach towns, ABC Stores has become a familiar sight for both locals and visitors alike.

Rapid expansion in the 1960s-1980s

After the success of the first store, ABC Stores experienced rapid expansion throughout the 1960s to the 1980s. The growth was fueled by the increasing number of tourists visiting Hawaii during this period. As the tourism industry flourished, so did the demand for convenient shopping options.

ABC Stores capitalized on this opportunity by strategically opening new locations in popular tourist areas. Their ability to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of visitors played a significant role in their expansion. They constantly updated their product offerings to include items that tourists wanted, making their stores a go-to destination for travelers.

The expansion of ABC Stores also had a positive impact on the local economy. It created job opportunities and contributed to the growth of other businesses in the surrounding areas. Furthermore, ABC Stores became actively involved in supporting local charities and community initiatives, establishing themselves as a responsible corporate citizen.

Today, ABC Stores continues to thrive in Hawaii’s retail landscape. Their success can be attributed to their commitment to customer satisfaction, convenience, and their ability to adapt to changing market demands. Whether you are a visitor or a local, ABC Stores are always there to provide you with the products you need, making them an integral part of Hawaii’s shopping experience.

Hawaii’s Liquor Licensing Laws

Have you ever wondered why there seems to be an ABC store on every corner in Hawaii? Well, the answer lies in Hawaii’s strict liquor licensing laws. These laws, put in place to regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol, have resulted in an abundance of ABC stores throughout the islands.

Strict limitations on liquor licenses

One of the main reasons for the proliferation of ABC stores in Hawaii is the strict limitations on liquor licenses. The state has set a cap on the number of licenses that can be issued, which means that competition for these licenses is fierce. As a result, many businesses opt to open an ABC store, as it is often easier to obtain a license for a retail establishment than for a bar or restaurant.

High annual fees for licenses

In addition to the limited number of licenses available, the high annual fees associated with obtaining and maintaining a liquor license in Hawaii also contribute to the prevalence of ABC stores. These fees can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the type and location of the establishment. For smaller businesses, the cost of obtaining a license for a bar or restaurant may be prohibitively expensive, leading them to choose the retail route instead.

Rules for proximity between stores

Another factor that has led to the abundance of ABC stores in Hawaii is the rules governing the proximity between stores. The state has implemented regulations that require a certain distance between liquor-selling establishments, in order to prevent an overconcentration of alcohol retailers in one area. This means that in some cases, a new ABC store may open simply because it meets the necessary distance requirements from existing stores.

So, the next time you find yourself surrounded by ABC stores in Hawaii, you can thank the state’s liquor licensing laws for their abundance. These laws, with their strict limitations, high fees, and proximity rules, have shaped the retail landscape of the islands and made ABC stores a common sight for both locals and tourists alike.

Tourism Industry in Hawaii

Millions of visitors each year

Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors from around the world each year. The breathtaking beaches, lush landscapes, and unique culture make it a dream vacation spot for many. With such high tourism numbers, it’s no wonder that there are numerous ABC stores throughout the islands.

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, a record-breaking 10.4 million visitors came to Hawaii in 2019. This influx of tourists creates a high demand for convenience stores where visitors can purchase essentials, souvenirs, and local products.

The abundance of tourists also contributes significantly to the economy of Hawaii, generating billions of dollars in revenue annually. The tourism industry provides job opportunities for locals and supports various businesses, including ABC stores.

Convenience for tourists

ABC stores have become synonymous with convenience for tourists visiting Hawaii. These stores offer a wide range of products, including snacks, beverages, sunscreen, beach accessories, and even local souvenirs. Tourists can find everything they need in one place, saving them time and effort.

Moreover, ABC stores are known for their extended operating hours, often staying open late into the night. This is particularly convenient for travelers who may be adjusting to different time zones or have late-night cravings.

Additionally, ABC stores accept various payment methods, including credit cards and foreign currencies, making it easy for tourists to make purchases without worrying about currency exchange or carrying excessive cash.

Locations close to hotels and attractions

One of the reasons there are so many ABC stores in Hawaii is their strategic locations. Many of these stores are situated near hotels, resorts, and popular attractions. This allows tourists to access them conveniently and fulfill their needs without having to travel far.

For example, in Waikiki, a popular tourist area in Honolulu, there are multiple ABC stores within walking distance of each other. This ensures that tourists always have a store nearby, no matter where they are staying or exploring.

The proximity of ABC stores to tourist hotspots also benefits the local economy. It encourages visitors to spend money on local products and helps support the surrounding businesses.

Business Strategy of ABC Store’s Parent Company

ABC Stores is a popular chain of convenience stores in Hawaii known for its wide range of products, including liquor, snacks, souvenirs, and more. The success of ABC Stores can be attributed to several key business strategies implemented by its parent company.

Saturation of markets with multiple locations

One of the main reasons for the abundance of ABC Stores in Hawaii is their strategic approach to market saturation. By opening multiple locations throughout the islands, ABC Stores ensures that they are easily accessible to both tourists and locals alike. This widespread presence allows them to capture a larger share of the market and cater to the needs of a diverse customer base.

Strong branding

ABC Stores has established a strong brand image in Hawaii through consistent marketing efforts and high-quality products. Their distinctive logo, featuring the iconic ABC letters, is instantly recognizable and associated with convenience and reliability. This brand recognition has helped ABC Stores gain customer loyalty and differentiate themselves from competitors in the market.

Range of convenience items beyond liquor

While ABC Stores are commonly associated with liquor, they have diversified their product offerings to include a wide range of convenience items. In addition to alcohol, customers can find snacks, beverages, toiletries, beach essentials, and even souvenirs. This extensive product selection ensures that ABC Stores cater to various customer needs, making them a one-stop shop for both locals and tourists.

Moreover, the presence of ABC Stores in popular tourist areas allows visitors to conveniently purchase essential items without having to travel far. This convenience factor contributes to the success of ABC Stores and explains why they are so prevalent in Hawaii.


The abundance of ABC stores in Hawaii ultimately comes down to a perfect storm of historical, legal, economic and strategic factors. The stores have become a ubiquitous symbol of convenience for Hawaii’s many visitors, providing easy access to snacks, souvenirs and local goods in addition to liquor. So next time you’re wondering about the never-ending presence of ABC stores, remember it’s the result of Hawaii’s one-of-a-kind history and approach to regulating liquor sales.

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