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2013年4月23日 (火)

コンビニの隆盛 地域と共存目指す成長戦略を

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 23, 2013
Convenience stores should reach out to local communities
コンビニの隆盛 地域と共存目指す成長戦略を(4月22日付・読売社説)

Boosted by the positive effects of Abenomics, the package of economic policies under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, expectations are rising for an economic recovery.

We hope the convenience store industry helps reinvigorate the economy in its own way by creating more demand.

The three leading convenience store chain operators--Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Lawson, Inc. and FamilyMart Co.--posted record operating profits for the business year ending in February.

Convenience stores debuted in Japan in 1974 with the opening of a store in central Tokyo. There are now about 50,000 throughout the country.

Combined convenience store sales exceed 9 trillion yen, greatly surpassing the 6 trillion yen in sales logged by department stores. Convenience stores are visited by about 15 billion customers annually, which can be construed as saying that every Japanese shops at the stores more than 100 times a year.

Vanguard of retail industry

These figures show that convenience stores, now deeply rooted in our daily lives, are in the vanguard of the retail industry, while the operators of department stores and supermarkets have been suffering from sluggish sales over the long term.

The secret of convenience stores' strength lies in their flexibility to expand operations by detecting changing consumption trends earlier than other retailers.

Their rapid growth is supported by a product mix and stock management that attaches great importance to hot-selling items, and by their just-in-time delivery system.

The product lineup, which used to center around onigiri rice balls and bento box meals, has expanded to include such items as fresh food, prepared dishes, freshly made coffee and pharmaceutical products, as they test the waters for new lines of business.

They also market low-priced private brand products one after another, attracting such people as housewives and senior citizens, who earlier shied away from visiting the stores.

The stores also have extended their lines of services beyond sales of merchandise to include the handling of utility bill payments, package delivery, ATM services and ticket sales.

However, there is a view that the number of stores operating in Japan has reached the saturation point. Competition with department stores and supermarkets, which are trying to reinvigorate themselves, and Internet mail-order retailers will intensify, making the business environment for convenience store operators harsher.

Convenience stores face a crucial period ahead.

In aggressively opening their outlets, convenience store chains have placed priority on opening stores in urban areas. Business operations in rural areas are likely to become a future challenge.

Many convenience stores are trying to demonstrate their uniqueness by selling products associated with a particular locality. But they will be tested over whether they can provide the goods and services consumers need, and run their businesses in harmony with local communities.

Role during disasters

With smaller retail stores disappearing from neighborhoods, a large number of shoppers found themselves handicapped because they do not have the means to travel farther afield. Convenience store operators should contribute to local communities, rather than merely pursue their own profits.

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake, convenience stores assumed a major role in helping victims recover their daily lives in disaster-affected regions, proving to the general public just how truly convenient they are.

Convenience store chains have made efforts to emphasize efficient and rational operations through prompt and flexible actions in opening temporary outlets and the use of sales vans.

It is essential for them to further improve their capabilities to function as a reliable means of social infrastructure at all times, such as by procuring goods and helping people unable to get home during disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2013)
(2013年4月22日01時45分  読売新聞)


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