Japan's convenience stores seek to boost sales with bookstore tie-ups


At a FamilyMart store that opened in Ogi, Saga Prefecture, in August, rows of bookshelves occupy a space next to an ordinary shopping area. In an eat-in section, customers read books and browse magazines they bought at the store.

The outlet is the first of its kind launched under a comprehensive partnership with major book brokerage company Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc., which has companies such as Sekibunkan Bookstore Co. in its group.

“Bookstores are rooted in communities and have strong affinity with convenience stores,” said a FamilyMart Co. official in charge of the project.

FamilyMart, a subsidiary of FamilyMart Uny Holdings Co., aims to open many more combined stores, mainly by renovating existing bookstores to meet local demand.

Other convenience store chains are also making efforts to open shops incorporating book sections while expanding on the already existing lineups of books at their existing outlets.

With bookstores in rural areas closing one after another due to increased competition from online shopping and a lack of successors for family-owned outlets, convenience stores aim to attract a new breed of customers and also increase sales of food and beverages to customers who pick up books.

The new types of stores are providing a boost to a saturated market and are helping to push up sales at such stores.

Lawson Inc., working with major bookstore Bunkyodo, operates 10 convenience store-bookstore hybrids.

“Per-customer spending is ¥100 higher on average,” excluding books, compared to conventional convenience stores, said a Lawson official in charge of the project.

But opening hybrid stores is not easy because they require relatively large plots of land.

As a result, Lawson has set up bookshelves to accompany standard magazine racks at existing convenience stores and plans to increase the number of such stores to 4,000 by February 2019 from the current total of about 3,000.

Seven-Eleven Japan Co. takes orders for magazines and puts them on hold for customers to pick up. Sales are brisk for gardening and other specialized magazines that are not readily available outside major bookstores.

According to research company Arumedia, the number of bookstores in Japan stood at about 12,000 as of May 2018, down 44 percent from 2000. A survey conducted last year by major book broker Tohan Corp. showed that more than 20 percent of all cities, wards, towns and villages across Japan lacked a bookstore.