NAGOYA (Kyodo) Amid declining personal consumption, small-scale supermarkets are trying to be more creative and locally focused, and less-expensive, to boost sales.

Seisen Shokuhinkan Sanoya in Naka Ward, Nagoya, has special “bento” boxed lunches, including some featuring chub mackerel boiled in bean paste. It is priced at ¥250 and as many as 800 to 900 boxes are sold daily.

At the store in the Osu shopping mall, low-priced vegetables, meats, cookies and other items are also on display.

The secret behind the unusually low prices is the way the store purchases its products. Store employees gain an advantage in price negotiations by buying excess stocks from food producers and going to vegetable markets on the city’s outskirts that major supermarkets don’t visit.

The store also keeps costs down for ingredients, except for the main dish. “We cannot buy a big volume of cheap goods whose availability is limited. We are trying to compete with major supermarkets this way,” Seisen Shokuhinkan Sanoya President Yoshinori Sano said.

His company owns only one store, but its annual sales reach about ¥1.8 billion. “For us, the recession is the wind at our backs. Sales are registering a double-digit increase each year,” he said.

At eight outlets of Yamada Store based in Taishi, Hyogo Prefecture, panels target consumers with slogans and commodity information such as: “Eat tasty bean paste soup with your families at breakfast” and “Apples are 30 percent cheaper this year than last year.”

The chain has been focusing on the point of purchase strategy, increasing sales in the process. In marketing an additive-free “ponzu” citrus-based sauce, the store displays pictures taken by one of its employees who was sent to the producer.

A 61-year-old housewife from Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, said: “The explanations about the products are easy to understand. There are major supermarkets in other places, but I always come here.”

Competition with major supermarkets is tough, but Yamada Store President Masahiro Yamamoto said, “Instead of competing with them by selling cheap products, we can differentiate ourselves by providing information consumers want.”

Halows Co. of Fukuyama in Hiroshima Prefecture, which operates 41 stores, follows a dominance strategy in which stores are concentrated in one district.

It has opened 16 in the city and is overpowering major supermarkets operating nationwide by basing its appeal on its community-based stance.

Almost all the company’s stores operate 24 hours a day. Utility and other charges are ballooning, but they are offset by logistics expenses that are cheaper because each store is concentrated on a focused district.

In the business year that ended in February, the company expects sales and profits to increase for the 15th year in a row. “The national ranking is nothing for us. What is important for us is to become the top store in this district,” Halows President Toshiyuki Sato said.

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