Japan's FamilyMart Plans Move into U.S.

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Japan's FamilyMart Plans Move into U.S.

NEW YORK -- FamilyMart Co., which runs Japan's third-largest chain of convenience stores, will open outlets in Oregon, Washington and California as early as next year in its first foray outside Asia.

The Tokyo-based company, which has about 6,000 stores in Japan and more than 3,000 in Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand, is planning a network of 50 outlets in Seattle, Los Angeles and other U.S. cities, President Junji Ueda told Bloomberg News.

"We will be able to attract Americans by introducing Japanese-style convenience stores in the U.S.,'' Ueda said. FamilyMart also plans to operate a food-processing plant and a distribution system in the United States, Ueda said.

Some analysts question whether it's too early for the company to open stores in mature economies such as the United States.

"It's a positive move in the long term," said Takashi Yanahira, a retailing analyst at ING Securities Japan Ltd. "Still, it's unclear whether this expansion is appropriate at this time when domestic sales on a same-store basis are stagnating."

FamilyMart, an affiliate of Itochu Corp., Japan's third- biggest trading company, will also face competition in the United States from the Seven-Eleven chain run by Ito-Yokado Co., Japan's biggest retailer by sales. The first Seven-Eleven store in Japan opened in November 1973, under license from The Southland Corp., a U.S. company later bought out by the Japanese franchiser.