Convenience store operators released actions plans Thursday to address acute labor shortages, which suggest they are becoming more flexible about operating hours.

"We will let the owners of (franchise stores) make the final decision" on whether to reduce business hours, said Fumihiko Nagamatsu, president of Seven-Eleven Japan Co., at a news conference in Tokyo. The move is a shift from the industry leader's longtime policy of keeping stores open around-the-clock.

FamilyMart Co. and Lawson Inc., which have conducted trials of shorter opening hours at some stores as well as Seven-Eleven, said they are also prepared to leave the decision to their franchise store owners.