NIPPONIA No.19 December 15, 2001
Special Feature*
Convenience Stores Take Off in New Directions
Convenience stores have been serving customers in Japan for about 30 years now. What do consumers expect of a convenience store? Here are two stores that are exploring new concepts, hoping to rise above their rivals in this highly competitive age.
Written by Takahashi Hidemine, Photos by Akagi Koichi

SCOCOA Convenience Store Developed by Women for Women
At an ordinary convenience store, some items are bought mainly by male customers, like men's magazines, sports newspapers and canned coffee-but you won't find these things at SCOCO. The aim here is to sell products that appeal overwhelmingly to women.
Why not a convenience store for women? That was the idea behind SCOCO, which opened in May 2001 in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. The staff, 100% women, developed the original concept and saw it through the planning stages.
The store's restroom is called a "powder room." It has a big mirror for a customer to touch up her makeup. Part of the floor is raised, to create a clean space for her to kick off her shoes and change her stockings and clothes. Drinking glasses are available as an aid to brushing teeth, and there are absorbent papers to remove oil from the skin. SCOCO certainly is a convenience store for women.
The take-out meals sold here are inexpensive, and they come in small packages. You might think they are for someone on a diet, but no-"They are for discerning women who want a bit of this and a bit of that for a nice meal," says Nakamura Misako, who works in the product department at COCO Store Co., Ltd. Customers choose the size that suits them, perhaps a small serving of pork on rice, bread, salad and a dessert. So a take-out meal costs the same as at an ordinary convenience store, but with all this variety, it's a small feast.
The cosmetics on the shelves show a refined awareness of current trends and seasonal influences. In the winter there's an array of lipsticks to prevent chapped lips, in the summer some hairclips to pin the hair up. You'll also see a number of fashionable net tights. Nakamura tells me, "After work, some customers drop in, change their clothes, then go out to enjoy themselves. Many of our products are the types of things I always wanted a convenience store to have, so I'm sure we are offering women what they want."
The store even has a nook called the Eat In Café There are 14 chairs here, inviting women to sit down and chat.

Image Image Image Image
This original store concept was the inspiration of Nakamura Misako. Her university graduation thesis was based on her research on convenience stores.
Part of the floor in the powder room is raised, so women can keep their feet clean when they change their pantyhose.
The Eat In Café has floor baskets for your coat and things you've been carrying.
An example of SCOCO's popular don-buri (rice with topping in a bowl). It is called "petit-don," because the servings are rather small.


   Special Feature*    Cover Interview    What Are These?
   Trends Today    Living In Japan    Charcoal Adds to the Good Life
   Bon Appetit!    Japanese travelogue