Japan convenience stores battle for e-commerce business

Tokyo, Jan 14 (Asia Pulse) - FamilyMart Co (TSE:8028) and four other majorconvenience store operators on Thursday said they will establish a joint venturein the field of electronic commerce. Meanwhile, industry leader Seven-Eleven Japan Co.

Tokyo, Jan 14 (Asia Pulse) - FamilyMart Co (TSE:8028) and four other major convenience store operators on Thursday said they will establish a joint venture in the field of electronic commerce.

Meanwhile, industry leader Seven-Eleven Japan Co. (TSE:8183) plans to set up an e-commerce joint venture with electronics firms. And Lawson Inc, the No2 firm in the industry, is moving to create its own systems with city banks and electrical machinery makers.

Convenience stores are drawing attention from trading houses, financial institutions and other firms in different sectors because of the customers their network of stores attracts. As a result, plans are rapidly being drawn up in which the stores will make use of the Internet in order to serve as distribution points.

The group of FamilyMart, Circle K Japan Co. (TSE:7437), Sunkus & Associates Inc. (TSE:7557), Ministop Co. (TSE:9946) and Three F Co. (TSE:7544) possesses a network of 12,500 stores. Economies of scale will help trim per store costs for developing multimedia terminals. The five companies will use their collective power to obtain deals on travel and other services. They also plan to provide unique uses, such as working with central and local government offices to have the terminals deliver residency and other documents.

The five rivals were spurred to form an alliance due to concerns that Seven-Eleven Japan was pulling ahead with a comprehensive service that handles everything from accepting orders to settling payments, through its alliances with companies such as NEC Corp (TSE:6701) and Sony Corp (TSE:6758). Settlements are expected to be handled by a bank that Seven-Eleven Japan's parent, Ito-Yokado Co (TSE:8264), plans to establish.

Meanwhile, Lawson is considering deals with financial institutions and electronics manufacturers so it can offer its customers special services, cash cards and instant in-store settlement with debit cards via the Internet. Lawson is already ahead in the introduction of multimedia terminals, but the firm has decided it will be difficult to differentiate service offerings from those of its rivals. Lawson aims to attract customers with the payment systems it develops.

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