What U.S. C-stores Can Learn from Japan's C-stores

TOKYO – Faced with growing competition from other retail channels, U.S. convenience store retailers may want to take a page from what c-store retailers in Japan are doing to draw in customers.

Tokyo-based FamilyMart Co. Ltd. is adding outlets paired with karaoke boxes in collaboration with Daiichikosho Co., a Japanese electronics provider. The latest such store opened this month in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture. The concept targets families because it has a room for kids, a spacious parking lot and offers a wide range of snacks, according to The Japan Times.

The Matsudo location is the third collaboration between FamilyMart and Daiichikosho. The two companies first teamed up in April when they set up a convenience store next to a karaoke facility in Kamata in Tokyo's Ota Ward. The number of karaoke customers visiting the outlet has grown 30 percent year over year since its debut, with sales up 10 percent, a Daiichikosho official told the news outlet.

FamilyMart and Daiichikosho plan to open 30 collaborative stores over the next three years.

The news outlet also reported that Three-F Co., another Japan-based convenience store operator in the Kanto region, is adding locations that feature food cooked on premises. The gooz outlets, as they are known, sell fresh-baked bread, brown rice balls and coffee made from 12 kinds of beans. They also have indoor dining space. The company plans to increase the number of gooz stores to 10 by the end of March.

Older consumers are grabbing the attention of Japan's c-store retailers as well. In early 2015, Tokyo-based Lawson Inc. will open a new c-store aimed at older customers, staffing the site with employees who can help customers choose daycare facilities and nursing services, a company official told The Japan Times

Lawson plans to open 30 of these new stores, mostly in metropolitan areas including Osaka and Nagoya, by the completion of its 2017 fiscal year, which ends in March 2018. The stores will have specialist care managers on duty during daytime hours.

Lawson is also looking to "tie up" with other businesses to open subsequent stores and is in talks with fitness club operator Renaissance Inc. to create shops with exercise spaces, the news report noted.

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