Japanese C-Stores Prepare for Disasters

Lessons learned from the 2011 earthquake help retailers map out a plan for keeping the doors open. 

March 22, 2021

Family Mart Convenience Store

TOKYO—It’s been a decade since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami took the lives of more than 19,000 people in Japan, and convenience stores in the island nation have spent the following years incorporating lessons learned from the aftermath of the quake into their everyday operations so they can continue to help their communities if disaster strikes again, Japan News reports.

From installing on-site kitchens to prepare fresh food to stocking over-the-counter medications to strengthening supply chains, retailers like Lawson Co., FamilyMart Co. and Seven-Eleven Japan Co. are evolving to prepare for disasters. Convenience stores are usually the only places open for people to find food, refreshment and fuel after earthquakes, floods and other severe weather.

Yoshishige Matsuda operates a Lawson c-store in Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, which was hard hit during the March 11, 2011, disaster. He said his c-store stock was quickly depleted on the day of the earthquake as he kept his doors open so neighbors could buy food and supplies. It took five days for the electricity to come back on and mor than a week for his stock to be replenished.

“I decided to keep the store open as long as my strength lasted as I had customers looking for food,” Matsuda told the Japan News.

In the intervening years, Lawson has equipped about 6,400 stores with rice cookers and deep fryers so food can be cooked on-site and has increased the number of stores that sell non-prescription medicines.

“We want to continue to be a reliable presence in times of disaster. That will lead us to gain support from customers during normal times,” Jun Miyazaki, Lawson senior executive managing officer, said.

FamilyMart, Japan’s second largest convenience store chain, built a mineral water plant in Niigata Prefecture after the 2011 disaster to supply water from eastern Japan.

Seven-Eleven Japan, the nation’s largest convenience store chain, has introduced a system to monitor the location of delivery trucks and in-store stock to help improve deliveries. A new feature will allow store operators to send damage reports to headquarters via a smartphone.

The NACS Convenience Store Emergency Planning and Job Aid resources help convenience stores identify and enhance their resiliency as they plan, prepare and recover from a disaster. Watch the six preparedness videos, or download the guides at www.convenience.org/disasterplan. There’s a free mobile app, too, with all of the job aids and videos, so employees can easily access them on their phones in an emergency. Go to www.saberspace.org/nacs-app.html and complete the brief enrollment, then download the app on your Apple or Android mobile device.

To read about how to prepare for natural disasters in the age of COVID-19, read “Coronavirus, Hurricanes and Other Disasters, Oh, My!” in the August 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.

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