Shops battle to keep the lights on

Japan news June 2017

Even in Tokyo, round-the-clock business operation only began making inroads in the late 1980s—during the so-called bubble economy—when technology businesses began flourishing and Japan’s capital finally emerged as an international financial centre.

The 14 April edition of Weekly Toyo Keizai magazine reports that a warning lamp has gone on concerning 24-hour businesses, particularly with regard to convenience stores and restaurants. As has been reported previously in BCCJ ACUMEN, they are finding it difficult to procure staff.

The Royal Host family restaurant chain, for example, announced in January that it would halt round-the-clock operations, and McDonald’s Japan K.K. has been reducing the number of all-night outlets.

Convenience stores mulling similar moves are finding themselves in a tricky position. By closing, even if only late at night and early in the morning, they fear risking a loss of consumer confidence and a decline in their brand image. Currently, they are said to be engaging in trial-and-error experimentation with their operating hours.

In April, Family Mart Co., Ltd., one of the three main convenience store franchises, initiated a Famima School. Up to then, worker training had been done on the job at outlets. But this had been thought to be adding to the burdens of already sorely stretched and undermanned stores, which in many cases were said to be failing to provide sufficient training as a result.

Thus, the firm has dispatched 70 staff from its headquarters to various places around Japan to provide training, either on store premises or in nearby facilities. Store managers are instructed in operation management, while rank-and-file staff receive training in merchandise reordering and customer service.

During periods of worker shortages, supporting the franchises with such training will be important, and it is to be hoped that convenience store workers will feel motivated to stay on longer, general sales manager Kazunari Ueno told the magazine.