Lawson targets 3,000 more stores abroad
Lawson Inc, Japan's second largest convenience store chain, plans to increase the number of its "Lawson" stores in strategic countries outside Japan to 3,000 over the next five years, says Sadanobu Takemasu, the company's president and chief operating officer.
As of March 2016, the company has a total of 12,355 Lawson convenience stores in Japan and 800 branches internationally.
The move is a part of efforts to catch up with other Japanese rivals in the international market.
Lawson projects to see its number of outlets in Japan increase to 15,000 by 2019.
There are more than 40,000 7-Eleven stores globally outside Japan and FamilyMart operates almost 6,000 stores abroad.
Mr Takemasu said out of the 3,000 stores targeted outside of Japan, 500 are slated for the For Thailand, where it operates under the name Lawson 108.
"Thailand is one of our strategic markets, given that it has a population of 70 million but only 10,000 convenient stores of every brand operating nationwide," said Mr Takemasu.
"We see a lot of room to grow," he said, adding that in Japan there are 56,000 convenience stores to serve a population of 120 million.
Apart from Thailand, Lawson has convenience stores in China, Indonesia, the Philippines and the US state of Hawaii.
Vathit Chokwatana, executive director of Saha Lawson Co, a joint venture between Thailand's consumers goods conglomerate Saha Group and the Japanese Lawson Inc, said Lawson 108 will boast 98 stores by the end of the year, up from 60 at present.
"More than 38 shops will be opened by the company in Thailand this year and we have to be more aggressive in outlet expansion in order to accomplish our 500-store target starting from next year," said Mr Vathit.
From 2017 until 2020, the company plans to open 100 additional stores in Thailand annually.
"By doing so, we will have a total of 500 Lawson 108 shops in Bangkok and Greater Bangkok by 2020. It will require an investment of 2 billion baht to open 400 new stores," said Mr Vathit.
Amid the fierce competition, Mr Takemasu said that the company has adjusted its product selections to focus more on daily essential consumers goods, on top of attempts to cover different consumers segments to ensure it can serve the needs of customers across various countries.
For the Thai market, Mr Vathit said the company has been working out a new approach with new kind of products to compete with other chains.
"We have positioned ourselves in the niche market, and we don't offer mass products as it will put us on the battlefield with competitors who are operating a lot of branches. We have new products and services such as the eat-in space -- seats for customers to eat fast food. We also have had a kitchen installed at each branch, except those outlets at subway stations," he said.