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Self-service convenience store stands and kiosks popping up inside companies

JIJI

More and more convenience store chains and food makers are installing vending machines or unattended sales stands in companies to tap demand from white collar workers.

Last month, Lawson Inc. launched Petit Lawson, a self-service outlet at which products from confectioneries to cup noodles are sold in offices. Since the registers only support electronic payments, Lawson can offer products at a wider price range, a company official said.

Lawson aims to introduce 1,000 such stands by February.

FamilyMart Co., a unit of FamilyMart Uny Holdings Co., is promoting the establishment of vending machines that can simultaneously handle products with different storage temperatures, including bread, rice balls and salad.

“I don’t want to go to convenience stores outside because they are crowded,” said a woman who bought a salad during her lunch break at an office building in Tokyo’s Marunouchi business district.

“I often use this vending machine because the products are frequently changed.”

Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. has developed a vending machine for drinks that can be linked to smartphones to support their health. Customers can exchange points earned by walking certain distances measured by their smartphone pedometers toward the purchase of beverages approved by the government as having specified health benefits.

The company aims to set up 10,000 of the vending machines at 2,000 companies by the end of the month.

Confectioner Ezaki Glico Co. has been a leading force in such services. Its Office Glico service was launched in 1998.

Under the service, the company installs a box filled with various kinds of confectioneries in small drawers at businesses. Purchases are often based on the honor system, and the money is collected during routine restocking visits.

Use of the boxes accelerated after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

There are over 130,000 of the boxes installed in offices throughout Japan, and the range of products has widened to include small items like face masks.