Japanese C-Stores Relax 24/7 Rules

The c-store industry in Japan is becoming more flexible with operating hours amid rising labor costs and staffing shortages.

April 29, 2019

TOKYO—C-stores in Japan are typically open 24 hours, but many are struggling with staff recruitment and rising labor costs. The shortage of workers to cover those late-night shifts (especially as Japan’s population ages) are causing franchise owners to rethink and demand a change to operating hours, reports Channel News Asia.

The changes came about after a Seven-Eleven franchise owner cut his opening hours without approval from headquarters and was fined $150,000. Government data finds that 61% of franchisees cannot find enough staff. Japan Times says that c-store owners have relied on foreign part-time workers to cover shifts as they struggle to secure staff while the population grays.

The companies are now getting involved: “We will let the owners of (franchise stores) make the final decision” on whether to reduce business hours, said Fumihiko Nagamatsu, president of Seven-Eleven Japan Co., at a news conference in Tokyo. Both FamilyMart Co. and Lawson Inc. have expressed similar sentiments.

Seven-Eleven also will double investment to $1.07 billion through February 2020 to introduce self-checkout machines and other initiatives to aid labor issues. Recruitment programs also may dwindle, as FamilyMart said it will hire 100 people, instead of 200, in the year 2020.

At the government level, industry minister Hiroshige Seko urged convenience store chains to come up with plans to tackle long hours and labor shortages in the sector, calling these c-stores (konbini) part of “Japan's social infrastructure.”

Analysts say that the 24-hour system is vital to a store’s management and upkeep. Workers can clean and restock during nighttime hours and deliveries will need to occur during peak roadway hours.