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Retail giant Aeon looks to cater to Japan's graying population

At least 100 stores to offer products, services targeting older shoppers

Exercise classes are held at one of Aeon's pilot senior-oriented stores in Osaka Prefecture.

TOKYO -- Aeon plans to set up 100 or more stores by 2025 aimed at Japan's growing ranks of seniors, offering events and healthy products to meet their particular needs.

This undertaking will be handled by core subsidiary Aeon Retail, which has been testing the idea at four stores. The company will expand this to 12 locations in the fiscal year ending February 2018 and add a dozen or so a year from fiscal 2018 on, including both new stores and remodeling of existing locations that are at least two decades old.

How individual locations cater to seniors will be up to each one to decide. The stores will encourage older people to stop in by offering reward points for visiting between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and for walking a certain number of steps, for example.

Events such as exercise classes, seminars on healthy eating and gatherings for hobby enthusiasts will be held almost every day. Services such as health consultations and transportation via shuttle bus will also be considered. Stores will partner with the government and medical institutions.

The pilot stores have seen sales of particular foods with health benefits surge hundreds of times or even 1,000-fold when samples are offered. The new locations will continue this, giving shoppers opportunities to try low-sodium foods, for instance. They will also stock a more extensive selection of other items for seniors, such as canes and reading glasses.

Aeon Retail has around 350 general merchandise stores with more than 10,000 sq. meters of floor space each. Another 150 or so are operated by regional companies in such areas as Hokkaido and the southwestern island of Kyushu.

While rival Ito-Yokado shifts its focus to food and real estate, Aeon aims to capitalize on Japan's aging society with its general merchandise retail business by having senior-oriented locations make up a fifth to a quarter of the stores.

Aeon reported group operating profit of 36.6 billion yen ($335 million) for the three months through May, a record high. Yet the general merchandise store segment, which accounts for more than a third of revenue, logged a 6.7 billion yen operating loss, suggesting that change is needed.


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