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Convenience store chains jump on e-money bandwagon

JIJI

Major convenience store operators are gearing up to make electronic money more usable for payments in a bid to attract more customers and boost sales.

Increasing the types of e-money accepted at outlets and adding e-money functions to existing reward cards are among the measures being considered.

Lawson Inc. will start accepting Waon, which is issued by retail giant Aeon Co. and the most widely used e-money in Japan, on Tuesday.

At present, Lawson accepts e-money from online shopping operator Rakuten Inc.’s Edy and railway service-related Suica cards.

“Waon is widely used by housewives and its introduction can provide us with a new customer base,” a Lawson official said.

Lawson also added e-money functions to its Ponta reward card in November.

Meanwhile, FamilyMart Co. started accepting e-money in the form of T-Money in June, and in November began introducing self-checkout machines that accept e-money at outlets inside Keisei Electric Railway Co. stations.

FamilyMart has said it hoped to install more of the machines in a bid to save customers’ time during rush hour.

In other convenience stores, Seven-Eleven Japan Co., a unit of retail giant Seven & I Holdings, focused on the group’s nanaco e-money card for payments.

However, it planned to further promote the nanaco cards by capitalizing on its vast network of outlets, ranging from supermarkets to restaurants.

According to Nomura Research Institute, e-money payments totaled ¥4.2 trillion in Japan in 2014, led by Waon and nanaco, with the market expected to grow to ¥11.4 trillion by 2021.

Daisuke Tanaka, senior consultant at the institute, said e-money operators needed to increase the number of places where e-money can be used and take measures to encourage customers to use it more frequently.