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Managing Conbini

Popularity of American style shops in Japan

The modern Japanese culture has an interest in western and American culture, and as such, Japanese consumers are interested in purchasing American products. With the introduction of many new American goods, the Japanese are expressing this desire by spending on these goods, which are to them, new, novel and exiting (Ellington, 1992). Not only that, but the style and concept of the American convenience store is also something with is gaining lots of popularity in Japan. This is not only because of the cultural influence, but the practical influence. The practicality arises because the Japanese are very space conscious due to very tight restrictions on available space, and cannot afford to fill up their homes with any unnecessary purchases. As such, the American style convenience store lets them get the items they need that they cannot keep at home.

The origin of the convenience store, and its subsequent evolution

Space is a true commodity in Japan, and this applies as much to private space as it does to commercial space. This is illustrated by the Japanese convenience store, or the Conbini, which does not have enough shelf space to let the consumer see all the products that are available. This has been a significant driving factor for Conbini e-commerce, where the Japanese can instead look at the offered goods online through a terminal at the Conbini shop, and then order them for delivery. The internet has no such space restrictions, and so provides a huge advantage over the former tradition of looking through the products physically.

Apart from the clear advantages that the Combini provides for the Japanese consumer, the fact that many Japanese have no private internet in their homes makes going to the Combini terminal and ordering from there very attractive (Bloomberg Business News, 2004).

What new services and products could be provided by a Combini, and how should such new products be offered to the Japanese consumer?

The combini appears to provide many great opportunities for the introduction of the services and products. As stated, the poor availability of space in Japan provides a distinct opportunity for many products, such as entertainment products like DVDs, which while previously needed lots of retail space, can now offered instead through the internet. Store owners can get around the problem of space by providing a home delivery service for these products.

It is true that technology could have an even larger part to play for Americans. The innovation of e-commerce terminals at Combini stores could be translated across the Pacific into United States E-tailing, or online retailing, which has already proven to be effective in certain cases. The American retailer Circuit City has adopted the internet for sales, and this has helped the company become much more profitable, in contrast to low profits gained over the last 5 years (Bhatnagar, 2004). If the Japanese Combini construct is used, the average American convenience store could make the same savings due to needing less retail space, and being more efficient with the space they have. Products ordered online could cut out the retail space needed to advertise them, and building costs would also decrease, and likewise land costs for the stores. American convenience stores have had to deal with increasing crime, though the new Combini method could reduce convenience store crime with less available products on location to steal.


(Bhatnagar P 2004 Circuit City-No More Excuses)Bhatnagar, P. (2004). Circuit City-No More Excuses. CNN, , . Retrieved September 10, 2006, from Money Magazine and CNN Web Site:

(Bloomberg Business News 200404 Japan's Convenience Stores add E-Commerce to Milk and Management)Bloomberg Business News. (2004, April). Japan's Convenience Stores add E-Commerce to Milk and Management. Retrieved September 10, 2006, from CNET News Web Site:,39042972,13027570,00.htm

(Indiana University Clearinghouse For US-Japan Studies 1992 Japanese-U.S. Economic Relations)Indiana University Clearinghouse For U.S.-Japan Studies/Lucien Ellington, author (1992). Japanese-U.S. Economic Relations. Japan Digest, 4(2002), .