Culturally speaking, Japanese consumers have an interest in utilizing American inventions because of an overall desire to capture the flavor and feel of Western culture, as Japanese citizens experience the joy of having disposable income to purchase goods that they are seeing for the first time in many cases (Ellington, 1992). Specifically in the instance of the American convenience store concept, the popularity of it in Japan, beyond the cultural associations, also has a practical element to it, as space in Japan is at a premium, which makes it difficult and impractical for the average Japanese to store lots of consumer goods in their homes. Therefore, the convenience store allows them to quickly obtain needed items if they cannot be kept on hand at home.
Evolution of the Original Concept of the Convenience Store
Space is at a premium in Japan, and retail stores are no exception. Even the Conbini (convenience store) lacks enough shelf space to display all of the goods that are offered. Because of this, the original concept of the convenience store has evolved through the use of e-commerce; for example, in the Conbini, Internet terminals exist whereby the customer can order products and have the products delivered to their homes. This allows for the offering of many goods in a limited space environment.
Aside from the obvious convenience and product availability that Conbini provides to the Japanese consumer, there is another important aspect of Conbini that the Japanese particularly like, which can be found in the e-commerce element of the stores themselves. Because many Japanese do not have Internet access in their homes, the possibility of buying online from the terminal at Conbini is very appealing (Bloomberg Business News, 2004).
What Other Kinds of New Products/Services Could be Introduced in the Conbini?
How Should the New Offerings be Distributed?
Conbini represents an excellent opportunity to introduce new products/services. Because of the space crunch in Japan, there exists a promising opportunity for the provision of the kinds of entertainment (DVDs, videocassettes, etc) that previously required large retail spaces, but can be ordered using the Internet technology that now exists. These new product/services should be distributed via home delivery due to the convenience and practical considerations that are dictated by the space restrictions that exist in Japan itself.
Technology can also play a bigger key role. The Conbini innovations in E-commerce could be adapted to E-tailing in the United States in many ways, and have been to some extent in the past, evidenced by American retailers like Circuit City, which has embraced the Internet as a sales tool and used it to rescue the firm from low profits over the past 5 years or so (Bhatnagar, 2004).
To strictly follow the Conbini model, the typical American convenience store could reduce the costs associated with huge retail locations by utilizing Internet technology as Conbini has to make convenience stores smaller and more cost/space efficient. Given certain concerns in the United States at this time as well, Conbini models can reduce the crime associated with the typical American convenience store and conserve natural resources by disturbing less land and using less utilities and building materials.
(Bhatnagar P 2004 Circuit City-No More Excuses)Bhatnagar, P. (2004). Circuit City-No More Excuses. CNN Money.com, , . Retrieved September 10, 2006, from Money Magazine and CNN Web Site: http://money.cnn.com/2004/04/26/news/fortune500/circuit_city
(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: http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/hardware/0,39042972,13027570,00.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), .