Konbini (The convenience store)
The local convenience store is like a small supermarket, stocked with a wide array of prepared foods and snacks, beverages, magazines, and daily necessities. Many offer a range of other services as well: copy machines and ATMs for cash dispensing are available, and the convenience store clerks will accept packages for pick-up delivery and film for developing. At year-end, they will sell New Year's cards, take New Year greeting printing orders, and send out year-end gifts. Most convenience stores are open 24 hours everyday of the year.
The first convenience store in Japan opened in 1969. By 1973 it had evolved into an American-style convenience store selling daily necessities as well as food items. Since then the convenience store has grown in popularity, particularly among young people. A surevey made by Data Service (2001) found that 44% of the Japanese people go to a convenience store at least 3 days per week. In the 10-to-20 age group, more than half are convenience store shoppers. Convenience store customers buy food items, beverages and snacks, magazines, books and newspapers; pay their utility bills; make use of the copy and fax machines; and send packages. For the high school student, the convenience store is a place to buy food and drinks and spend time with friends. Convenience stores may be popular hang out places.
Today the convenience store is said to be a six trillion yen market. Seven-Eleven is the largest convenience store chain in Japan with 1,200 stores in Tokyo and over 8,000 in urban areas throughout the country. Seven-Eleven enjoys total sales of over two million yen. The market, however, is becoming increasingly competitive. Different convenience store chains can often be found competing for customers in a single neighberfood. In nearly 60% of Japan, residents will find a convenience store within 500 meters of their homes. The competition among convenience stores is becoming even more heated with the emergence of discount stores.
-"On the Use of Convenience Stores," Data Service, 2001
-"Mono Gurafu, High School Students, vol. 62," Benesse Corporation, 2001
-Chiezo 2000, Asahi Shimbun