Japanese Stores Conquer Convenience

Hard times suit the country's ultra-handy 7-11 descendants
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2008 5:08 AM CST
Canned drinks called "unagi nobori," or "surging eel," made by Japan Tobacco Inc.   (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)
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(Newser) – Japan's ultra-convenient convenience stores are one of the few bright spots in the nation's struggling economy, the Washington Post reports. Business is booming at the 40,000 stores nationwide, which offer everything from hot soup to cold beer to fresh sushi. Customers can pay their bills, book travel, and even get their blood pressure checked by a machine at these ultimate one-stop shops.

The Japanese have been refining the convenience store concept since 7-11’s arrival in 1974, and the stores blossomed as the nation's economy wilted in the 1990s. Their services are precisely targeted: Some have toddler play areas, overlooked by a bar for tippling moms. Others aim for the elderly market, printing prices in large type and stocking items such as denture cleaner and bouquets suitable for graves.