Source: Cambria RYU’S TALKING LIVE 7th December 2023, Xtrend 25th April 2023 ,7and i website 

In November of this year, Seven-Eleven Japan celebrated five decades of shaping the convenience store narrative in a fiercely competitive landscape. As the flagship of Seven & I Holdings, the retail giant achieved an unprecedented feat, surpassing 10 trillion yen in sales and solidifying its status as Japan’s first retailer to reach this milestone.

What is the driving force behind this success? A strategic blend of “innovation,” “customer-centricity,” and unwavering “fundamental adherence.”

Toshifumi Suzuki: The Visionary Father of Convenience Stores

Founded by Japanese entrepreneur Toshifumi Suzuki, Seven-Eleven had its roots in Japan, tracing back to 1973. Suzuki, often hailed as the “father of convenience stores,” revolutionized retail by establishing the concept in Japan and orchestrating the growth of the country’s largest distribution group. His visionary leadership, from November 5, 2005, to April 2016, witnessed innovative initiatives like the establishment of Seven Bank, cementing his acclaim as a distinguished business leader.

Innovation: A Crucial Element in the Franchise Model

In a retail landscape dominated by a franchise model, Seven-Eleven’s survival hinges on continuous innovation. Unique processes, such as regular lunch meetings where executives unanimously approve new products, underscore the brand’s commitment to staying ahead. The franchise model demands adaptability, making innovation not just a choice but a necessity.

Customer-Centricity and Adaptability: Keys to 2100 Product Offerings

Seven-Eleven’s continuous adaptation to customer needs has resulted in an impressive catalog of over 2100 products after 50 years in the business. With approximately 20 million daily store visits in Japan, the brand has ingrained itself as a ubiquitous public institution. Toshifumi Suzuki’s dedication to public services, evident in initiatives like utility bill payment and ATM services, highlights the brand’s commitment to making life more convenient for customers.

Innovating in Product Development: The Recipe for Success

Central to Seven-Eleven’s triumph is their commitment to innovating in product development. Seven-Eleven has played a transformative role in the history of fast food, even in the realm of product development. Born from the perspective of “fast food rooted in Japanese life” are items like onigiri (rice balls), bento (boxed meals), and oden (simmered dishes). During that time, onigiri and bento were typically homemade, and it wasn’t common to buy them from stores. Nevertheless, Seven-Eleven believed that by achieving a level of deliciousness and quality not attainable at home, people would undoubtedly make purchases. In 1976, they embarked on the development of onigiri. Emphasizing the differentiation point of “delicious even when cold,” they meticulously selected ingredients, conducted research on rice cooking methods, and even independently developed a rice cooker. They experienced a period where only 2-3 pieces were sold per day. In 1978, they introduced the innovative “Parikko Film” and became the first in the industry to release a hand-rolled onigiri with a crispy seaweed texture. This onigiri rapidly became a hit product. Even today, onigiri remains a blockbuster, with a staggering annual sale of 1.7 billion units. Thus, rice-based items grew into flagship products, representing quintessential offerings in Japan’s convenience stores.

Toshifumi Suzuki’s Approach to Utilizing the POS System

The introduction of the POS system brought joy within the company as it eliminated the need for cumbersome manual calculations and provided insights into popular products. However, Suzuki had a distinctive perspective on the POS system: “POS is not meant for observing popular items. It reveals slow-moving, less successful products. Continuously replace slow-moving items. Customer preferences change, and seasons affect demand. What sold today may not sell tomorrow. By introducing new items that aren’t performing well, we can better cater to customer needs. If a store continues to order what sold yesterday, it will lose its appeal. Even if the POS system indicates successful sales, duplicating exactly what sold is not advisable. Suzuki values both ‘adaptation to change (innovation)’ and ‘fundamental adherence.’

Suzuki recognizes the challenge of sustaining inconspicuous efforts. However, he emphasizes that failure to continue such efforts would lead to decline.

Cutting-Edge Food Innovation and Environmental Commitment

In the realm of cutting-edge food innovation, Seven-Eleven introduced frozen ramen and a diverse array of regional products. Noteworthy is the brand’s environmental commitment, symbolized by the shift from black to white packaging. The latest addition, Seven Cafe Smoothies, represents an upcycled approach, reducing food waste by transforming frozen products into fresh drinks.



Continuous Innovation and Customer-Centric Approach: Pivotal to Ongoing Success

The enduring dominance of Seven-Eleven is rooted in its commitment to continuous innovation and a customer-centric approach. The brand’s ability to adapt to change, adhere to fundamentals, and provide localized services remains pivotal to its ongoing development.