Round-the-clock konbini, no more?

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Not another konbini story. What is konbini anyway? For our regular readers, this may be familiar to you due to the recent controversial issues surrounding this particular establishment. But for the benefit of the audience, who are new to this site, let us take a little detour to get you up to speed.


The first ever konbini was established in the United States over 90 years ago. The konbini did not reach the shores of Japan until the year 1969. It was only in 1974 that the konbini experienced a rapid growth spreading all across the country after the establishment of the first Seven-Eleven store in Japan. By now, most if not all have a definite answer to our main question, right? Yes! The konbini are convenience stores that operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week all throughout the year. These stores offer a wide range of goods and services with one sole purpose – to deliver to the consumers, convenient and hassle-free facilities that not available elsewhere. The konbini was born in the United States but Japan quickly developed this into a thriving franchise system. Currently, reports cite that there are about 56,000 convenience stores all over the nation of Japan alone. At night, the konbini transform into attractions illuminating the streets with different array of colors for tourists and locals alike.


However, the system of operating convenience stores all day everyday is now facing controversial issues due to the lack of sufficient manpower in Japan. According to news reports, the dispute began when franchise owner Mitoshi Matsumoto closed his Seven-Eleven store between 1 AM to 6 AM in the city of Higashi-Osaka. He implemented this system after his wife, who helped him with the store, passed away in February this year.


A survey by the Ministry of Industry showed that 61 percent of convenience store franchisees are unable to find sufficient manpower to maintain the traditional 24 hour operation. In the words of Tomomi Nagai, chief analyst for Toray Corporate Business Research, “The labor shortage has become more serious than ever in the past few years…It’s difficult to keep part-timers after midnight because wages aren’t high but the job is complicated due to various services offered at the shops. As a result, franchise-store owners are forced to work long hours and they’re frustrated.”


As it stands, the franchise grantors of convenience stores have started tests for shorter operation hours. Other solutions include the use of self-checkouts and automation. One firm is said to be exploring the use of a human-free system between 12 midnight to 5 AM.



Convenient but controversial: Japan’s 24/7 stores

A Mini History of Convenience Stores in Japan


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