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Lawson Inc. and FamilyMart Co. reported brisk first-half earnings Wednesday due to the successful merchandising of original food items.

Last week, industry leader Seven-Eleven Japan Co. reported a record net profit.

Lawson, the nation’s second-largest convenience store chain, said its net profit during the six-month period through August rose 11 percent to 11.3 billion yen. Sales from all Lawson stores, including franchisees, increased 4 percent to 675.45 billion yen.

Lawson’s original instant food items, including cup noodles, jointly developed by 12 food makers exceeded sales of 1 million units in three weeks.

“We aim to increase the proportion of original items (against total store lineup) to 40 percent from 30 percent at present,” Eiichi Tanabe, Lawson chief financial officer, told a news conference in Tokyo.

Company officials said the hot summer boosted sales of drinks and ice cream.

The chain opened a net 88 outlets in Japan during the period, bringing the total number of domestic stores to 7,909 at the end of August.

FamilyMart, the nation’s third-largest convenience store chain, announced record revenue and earnings during the first-half period.

Net profit was up 4 percent to 8.24 billion yen, and sales from all outlets were up 6 percent to 555.5 billion yen.

The chain said its “onigiri” rice balls and bakery enjoyed brisk demand. Especially strong were sales of bread items, which are traditionally weak during summer.

The officials said it was able to attract shoppers by offering a more “moist” bread menu during the thirsty season.

Seven-Eleven Japan Co. said earlier it posted a record net profit of 53.81 billion yen for the first half, marking a 25th consecutive month of growth.

Its revenue from all outlets, including those from franchisees, rose 6 percent to 1.26 trillion yen.

During the first half, it opened a net 256 stores nationwide, bringing the total to 10,559.

Japan’s top three chains made aggressive overseas openings during the first half and plan more in the near future.

Seven-Eleven opened five outlets in Beijing, the first Seven-Eleven stores in the country. It said it plans to open 500 stores in China over the next five years.

Lawson added 26 stores in Shanghai, bringing the number of such stores to 172.

FamilyMart opened a net 604 outlets during the period, bringing its overseas total to 4,731. It also has stores in Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and China.

FamilyMart said Wednesday it will open its first outlet in the U.S. early next year. It said it plans to open three stores in Los Angeles and other West Coast areas by the end of February 2006 and bring the total to 200 outlets during fiscal 2008.

The U.S. outlets will operate under the store name Famima, not FamilyMart. The chain will not call them convenience stores to avoid confusing consumers.

American convenience stores are typically part of gas stations, selling snacks and cigarettes. FamilyMart said its shops will be more upscale.

“We are going to sell the same merchandise over there. We plan to bring Japanese-style convenience stores” to the U.S., FamilyMart President Junji Ueda told a news conference.

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