Convenience stores

Convenience stores in Japan become ‘one-stop shops’ with more clothing and household items

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Colorful socks and shirts are lined up at a FamilyMart store in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Large convenience store operators are finding new business opportunities in areas such as clothing and household goods.

They are trying to capture the growing “one-stop-shop” demand amid the spread of the coronavirus by offering a wide selection of products, not just their basic groceries.

FamilyMart Co. launched seven new products in June, including new socks and towels, under its Convenience Wear clothing brand.

The company successively released a series of new products, including a foldable backpack in April and children’s socks in May.

The company rolled out its Convenience Wear line nationwide in March 2021 and now offers around 75 different types of items, including brightly colored T-shirts that cost ¥1,089.

In particular, socks with the same green and blue lines as the store’s logo became a social media hit, selling over 7 million pairs.

FamilyMart’s apparel sales for the fiscal year ending February 2022 increased 40% from the prior fiscal year.

The company intends to go on the offensive by expanding its range even further, with one apparel executive saying, “We want to grab a good share of the apparel market.”

Seven-Eleven Japan Co., the largest convenience store chain, had expanded its selection of products provided by ¥100 store operator Daiso Industries Co. at nearly all of its outlets in August.

The company began introducing the products in some of its stores in December 2020, enticing customers primarily with household items such as wet wipes and trash bags.

Lawson Inc. plans to introduce about 200 more Ryohin Keikaku Co.’s MUJI-branded products, such as stationery and clothing, in about 5,000 outlets in Kanto and Koshinetsu regions by the end September, and expand nationwide in 2023.

Lawson began selling the products in June 2020 and sales have increased at outlets where they have been introduced, the company said.

As convenience stores are small and their range of necessities and miscellaneous products is smaller than that of pharmacies and DIY stores, so far most necessities have been purchased as a stopgap in case emergency.

Lately, however, consumers are increasingly looking for a one-stop-shop to avoid catching the virus.

Convenience store operators believe that expanding their range of non-food items “will lead to more visits to their stores”, as an official of a large store operator said.

“These stores can increase convenience by providing consumable items that customers buy on a regular basis. They can also encourage impulse buying of drinks and food, which is their strength,” said Hidehiko Aoki, professor of business administration at Tokyo University of Science and retail industry expert.

Although the performance of the top three convenience store operators has been recovering since the early days of the pandemic, customer numbers have yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. Whether the tightening of clothing and daily necessities will trigger a turnaround remains to be seen.