Asia Minute: 24 Hours? Maybe Not at Japanese Convenience Stores

Nov 25, 2019

Convenience stores around the world are often known for being open all the time. But that’s changing in at least one Asian country, and not for the reasons you might think.

For some, a convenience store is by definition open 24 hours a day.

In Japan, that used to be a requirement to run a 7-Eleven. But last month, the company said it would allow franchisees to close overnight if they want to — and others are following.

According to the Japan Franchise Association, three major chains control about 80% of the country’s convenience stores: Seven-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson.

Family Mart is currently testing shorter hours in about 600 stores — while some Lawson outlets have already cut hours.

Convenience stores in Japan are a bit different than in many places. People can pay their utilities and other bills there. There’s almost always a photocopy machine, and usually there’s a broader selection of food than in most American convenience stores.

The shift in hours isn’t because of a drop in the stores’ popularity. It’s all about a changing workforce — a labor shortage. These days, Japan’s convenience stores are often staffed by immigrants.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, about 12,000 Lawson employees are foreign nationals —double the number of two years ago.

As for store hours, according to a recent government survey of 10,000 consumers, only about 9% said it was “necessary” for a convenience store to operate 24 hours a day.