A company store is a retail store selling a limited range of food, clothing and daily necessities to employees of a company. It is typical of a company town in a remote area where virtually everyone is employed by one firm, such as a coal mine. In a company town, the housing is owned by the company but there may be independent stores there or nearby.
The store typically accepts scrip or non-cash vouchers issued by the company in advance of weekly cash paychecks, and gives credit to employees before payday. Except in very remote areas, company stores became scarcer after the miners bought automobiles and could travel to a range of stores. Even so, the stores could survive because they provided convenience and easy credit.
Company stores have had a reputation as monopolistic institutions, funnelling workers’ incomes back to the wealthy owners of the company. Company stores often faced little or no competition and prices were therefore not competitive. Allowing purchases on credit enforced a kind of debt slavery, obligating employees to remain with the company until the debt was cleared.