EVER MORE CONVENIENT
Convenience Stores Seek to Create New Markets (February 21, 2006)
Convenience stores no longer just sell food and everyday items but offer an amazing variety of goods and services, occupying an important place in people's daily routines. Their quest to make themselves even more convenient, attractive, and original continues unabated, and many chains have recently launched specialist outlets targeted at specific groups of customers in an effort to stay ahead of the pack.
|Happily, a convenience store targeting women. (PANA)
Multifunctional Service Stations
There are about 40,000 convenience stores in Japan today, according to the Japan Franchise Association. The number of shops has risen rapidly, in part because they require less space to open than supermarkets and can stay open late into the night or around the clock and cater to the needs of young urban dwellers.
Convenience stores do not just handle commodities like food and everyday items but offer a range of essential services, such as utility bill payment, express package delivery, and faxing and photocopying. Some even have automatic teller machines and mailboxes. Today these shops are increasingly transforming themselves into multifunctional centers where people can take care of almost all of their basic household needs.
Recently, however, the market in urban areas has reached saturation point, and the number of shops and total sales have stopped rising. Not a few outlets have gone out of business or shortened their opening hours. Faced with this situation, chains have had to devise new strategies, shifting their focus away from young people to the middle-aged, the elderly, and homemakers.
Luxurious Powder Rooms
Lawson Inc., one of Japan's largest convenience store operators, operates a chain of stores called Natural Lawson, which carry products for health- and beauty-conscious shoppers. The outlets are designed to appeal to women and feature a line of original products, such as 600-calorie boxed lunches and freshly baked bread. As of February 2006 there were 40 Natural Lawson outlets in the metropolitan Tokyo and Kansai regions. Lawson plans to open several hundred more in the coming years.
Another chain, am/pm Japan Co., recently opened an unusual shop named Happily, which it created in line with the concept, "of, for, and by women." To enable women to have fun and relax while shopping, as well as offering a wide range of skin-care products and dietary supplements, the store boasts a lavish powder room with a dressing table, full-length mirror, and stool for changing stockings. Aromatic oils are used to scent the air. Last year am/pm Japan also launched am/pm enta, outlets that offer DVD rentals and book sales in addition to traditional convenience store fare. These shops rent out the latest DVDs for as little as three hours and stock around 1,000 publications, including many business books and magazines. The stores are targeted primarily at dual-income couples and singles.
An unusual convenience store carrying a wide selection of Hello Kitty goods, which are popular among teenage girls and women in their twenties, opened in the fashionable Harajuku district of Tokyo in November 2005. The shop is run by Family Mart Co., which obtained the approval of Sanrio, Co. to use the Hello Kitty character. Among the shops offerings are original Hello Kitty sweets.
Major convenience store operators have also ventured into the world of "100-yen shops," single-price outlets that are similar to convenience stores and have also been enjoying explosive growth (¥100 is $0.87 at ¥115 to the dollar). Lawson operates Store 100, and am/pm Japan runs Food Style. Circle K Sunkus Co., meanwhile, teamed up with the major supermarket chain Uny Co. to launch Kyu-kyu Ichiba, stores where everything costs ¥99.
These new shops are not simply convenience stores with inexpensive, one-priced goods but also serve as mini supermarkets offering vegetables and other provisions. By selling small, individual portions of vegetables and fruit, the franchises hope to win over older men and women living on their own and working women, who until now have been among the groups least likely to use convenience stores.
Japan Video Topics : Shop Assistants with Purchasing Power
Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.
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