Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Anyone see a 7-Eleven around?

January 16, 2012

I’m here in Bangkok for my annual supervision of the Global Consulting Project.

And again, I have been struck by the ubiquity of 7-Elevens in this city.  On the relatively quiet street of our hotel there are four branches of said store within a stretch of about 250 metres, including two pretty much directly across the (narrow) road from each other.  Just 400m in the other direction there are another three stores in a 60m stretch.

This obviously generates lots of discussion. One student said he’d seen similar density in Taiwan.  That got me searching for some data to check out which locations in the world have the most of these stores per person.

And here’s what I found.  In terms of population per 7-Eleven store (i.e. national population/number of stores), Thailand is in the top five globally (with ‘top’ meaning not many folks per store, or, put differently, the most stores per person):

I included Australia, simply for illustrative purposes.  We’re a fair way down the ranks (see here for the lengthier store count list – the US (c6,500 is missing)). The table identifies what appears to be the ‘natural home’ of the convenience store – densely populated urban centres around Asia.

For those who have missed the back story, 7-Eleven originated from the US, but was bought out globally by the firm’s Japanese master franchisee almost 25 years ago.

Japan had a pretty big head start on Thailand (opening in 1974, versus 1989 for Thailand), but Thailand is catching up fast.  I saw an estimate that there are over 3,000 stores in Bangkok, which equates to about one store for every 4,000 residents in this megacity (and comfortably defeating city state Singapore).

The Thai franchisee is doing something right, with profits reportedly up fivefold in three years. No wonder there’s talk said firm is chasing the franchise rights for Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar (and also some regions of China!).

I do start to wonder how far such expansion within a given city can go.  Could we eventually see a Bangkok headline like this one (mocking Starbucks’ rapid growth)?

These two stores are within 50 metres of each other in Silom, Bangkok

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Toto, we’re not in Tokyo anymore…

July 30, 2009

A neat international business story caught my eye in this week’s Economist. It draws our attention to the efforts of Japanese toilet technology leader Toto and their efforts to convince international markets of the merits of wiz-bang toilets that do a lot more than flush.

japanese toiletThese guys are at the cutting edge of the water-spurting, control-padded, programmable, intelligent toilets that amuse and confuse visitors to Japan. They are taking the big gamble that there is sufficient audience for such costly gizmos in the West (and other Asian markets, especially Japan).

As the article points out, the world of plumbing regulations (especially in Europe) is almost enough to kill this straight away. We shouldn’t forget that electronics companies have overcome such differences with relative ease (although their impediments may not have been quite so idiosyncratic and location-specific).

japanese toilet toto neorestThe bigger question is the scope to change the behaviour of potential customers in that most private of domestic settings. As any traveller knows there is enormous variation in lavatory layouts, protocols and the like from country to country and culture to culture.

Clearly this will only be a niche market for many years. A strategy of increasing product awareness (and hopefully cache) via placement in prominent public spots should generate some noise (I presume they’re talking restaurants, hotels, conference centres etc). I look forward to encountering one somewhere some time soon (let’s hope they are easier to use than some other electronic products).