Convenience stores (コンビニエンスストア konbiniensu sutoa), often shortened to konbini (コンビニ), developed tremendously in Japan. 7-Eleven Japan, while struggling to localize their service in the 1970s to 1980s, evolved its point of sale-based business, until ultimately, Seven & I Holdings Co., the parent company of 7-Eleven Japan, acquired 7-Eleven (US) from Southland Corporation in 1991. Japanese-style convenience stores also heavily influenced those stores in other Asian nations, such as Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and China.
Convenience stores rely heavily on the point of sale. Customers’ ages and gender, as well as tomorrow’s weather forecast, are important data. Stores place all orders on-line. As the store floor sizes are limited, they have to be very careful in choosing what brands to sell. In many cases, several stores from the same chain do business in neighboring areas. This strategy makes distribution to each store cheaper, as well as making multiple deliveries per day possible. Generally, food goods are delivered to each store two to five times a day from factories. Since products are delivered as needed, stores do not need large stock areas.
According to The Japan Franchise Association, as of August 2009 (data pertaining to the month of July 2009), there are 42,345 convenience stores in Japan. 7-Eleven leads the market with 12,467 stores, followed by Lawson (9,562) and FamilyMart (7,604). Other operators include Circle K Sunkus, Daily Yamazaki, Ministop, Am/Pm Japan (acquired by Family Mart in 2009), Coco Store and Seico Mart. Many items available in larger supermarkets can be found in Japanese convenience stores, though the selection is usually smaller. As well, the following additional services are also commonly available:
- Courier and postal service.
- Photocopying and fax service.
- Automated teller machines.
- Payment service for utilities and other bills and taxes.
- Ticket service for concerts, theme parks, airlines etc.
- Pre-paid cards for cellular phones
Some stores also sell charging service for electronic money and ATM services for credit card or consumer finance. Items not commonly sold include Slurpees, lottery tickets, carsupplies, and gasoline. [Wikipedia]