What if the average Americanconsumer took a step off ofU.S. soil and into foreign territory? Would there be a bigdifference between the convenience industry he’s used to and the way it’s operatedoverseas? CSD captured a glimpse of whatconvenience stores are like in Japan anddiscovered that convenience is conveniencein any language.
Even though Japan may have been thefirst to experience massive success withfoodservice, credit for the 24-hour concept still belongs to the U.S. While stores overhere were struggling to find decent employees for the graveyard shift, the Japanesewere debating the idea altogether.
“The convenience store was born in theU.S. and educated in Japan,” said FamimaCorp.’s Hidenari Sato, sharing his personalphilosophy on the industry. After gainingexperience in Japan’s bustling retail market,the chain’s head of marketing has helpedFamilyMart Japan Co. establish 12 Famimastores in the U.S. So far, he feels the twomarkets have learned a lot from each other.
When Japan began embracing thec-store industry, it used the U.S. structuremerely as a blueprint. The stores carried all the essentials seen in their Western counterparts, but Japanese stores went a stepfurther and began serving fresh commissary food, even before the concept began totake off in the States. Since then, fresh deliitems have been a cornerstone of the market.
“When 7-Eleven first brought the 24-7c-store concept to Japan, nobody everthought it would take off,” said Sato. “Butpeople’s tastes and their needs haveevolved. So has the c-store format inJapan.”
The c-store industry in Japan has becomea one-stop behemoth, offering servicesunheard of in the U.S. market, such as providing kiosks for booking everything fromtrain tickets to hotel rooms to concert seats.Customers can also pay their bills there andeven use local c-stores as pick-up and dropoff delivery points for goods purchased andsold on the Internet.
C-stores have even served as a haven fortroubled Japanese citizens. During times ofcrisis and natural disasters, the governmentuses local c-stores as a means of providingrelief and supplies to those in need.
The concept has saturated the country’slifestyle, much as it has here, leaving multiple stores in eyeshot anywhere.
“The c-store population is very dense,”explained Sato. “There are more than 100million people living on a landmass thesize of California, so the stores servicingthat population are going to be much morecentralized. In a big city like Tokyo, it’s notunusual to see three different competitorson a four-corner intersection.”
While that sounds like some stiff competitions, keep in mind it could always beworse.
“If you think Japan has a high densityof stores, you should see what it’s like inTaiwan,” joked Sato.
According to the 2007 NationalCoffee Drinking Trends study conducted by theNational Coffee Association, 57% of coffeedrinkers between the ages of 18 and 24 drinkcoffee away from home everyday. The total dailycoffee consumption for that age group hasalmost doubled in the past three years. Also,one trend worth noting is the new blend ofhypercharged coffees being offered by retailerslike 7-Eleven and Irving Oil (pictured), which areinfused with extra caffeine or herbal supplements for a quick energy rush. These beveragesquench the thirst of young American adults, alsothe target audience for energy beverages, forhot to-go coffee and performance-enhancingbeverages in a single product.
“Performance-enhancing foods and beverages are incredibly popular right now,” saidDonald Driver, the coffee category manager forDallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. “Witness the explosive growth in functional protein and energy bars,supplements, energy drinks and protein shakes.We know our customers want coffee and energy.Our new Fusion Energy coffee offers both.”