Convenience store operator FamilyMart Co. has said it will allow its franchise owners across Japan to shorten operating hours from March, in a bid to address a severe labor shortage during late-night hours.

Under the new policy, which will cover nearly 16,000 stores, franchise owners will be able to shut down for part or all of the period from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. if they notify the headquarters in advance.

"It is up to each of our franchise owners to make a decision" to end 24-hour operations, said Takashi Sawada, president of the company, at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.