TOKYO - A year later, the Japanese government has yet to rebuild much of the northeast after that area was battered by an earthquake, nuclear accident and tsunami. But Japanese convenience stores, called konbini, have recovered and are doing well, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Convenience stores had been hit hard by the disasters, with the three biggest chains €" Family Mart Co., Lawson Inc. and Seven & i holdings Co. €" having to shut down more than 1,000 units temporarily. Some are still closed because of their location in the no-entry zone around the Fukushima plant.
While the chains had expected lower earnings last year, all three posted the largest profits on record for the first six months of FY2011, which ended August 31. All three companies said quick shipments of needed supplies to the disaster areas helped spur sales, along with a flexible national supply distribution system. For example, 41 factories that supplied Seven Eleven closed after the earthquake and another 128 factories sent essential products to the north, such as prepared lunch boxes, sandwiches and rice balls.
Lawson sent 40,000 cups of ramen northward a day after the earthquake hit, and Family Mart gave 100,000 items of candy, jello and noodles to the hard-hit areas. Many convenience store customers shopped for basic supplies at konbinis because grocery stores were not operating.
"There are many customers who think that convenience stores are expensive, but if you go, there are lots of original items that aren€™t so expensive €" non-food items, and condiments €" and based on that I think a lot of customers turned towards convenience stores," said Eri Odawa, a spokeswoman for CircleK Sunkus Co.