TOKYO -- Seven-Eleven Japan and Seino Holdings on Friday announced they have joined forces on a home delivery service, potentially making life a little easier for the convenience store chain's staff.
Employees of the delivery company will help 7-Eleven stores send out products as well as take orders from customers at home. The arrangement has already been introduced at about 150 outlets in Tokyo and seven prefectures, including Hiroshima in the western part of the country.
The plan is to expand it to 3,000 outlets nationwide by the end of February 2019.
"We have offered delivery services for 17 years, and requests from customers have been increasing nonstop," Seven-Eleven Japan President Kazuki Furuya said on Friday, during a ceremony at the chain's Tokyo headquarters. "Joining hands with Seino will enable our outlets to handle deliveries without stress."
About 15,000 7-Eleven outlets -- nearly 80% of the total -- offer a membership service called Seven Meal. In principle, any item on store shelves is eligible for home delivery, including bento boxes, drinks and sundries. The service is free when the bill totals 500 yen ($4.60) or more.
But at most 7-Elevens, store employees have been making the deliveries on top of their regular duties. This means many outlets can only send out orders a few times a day.
Under the new arrangement, a Seino subsidiary will dispatch drivers to make the rounds of multiple 7-Elevens. This will speed up delivery times -- say, to an hour and a half after an order comes in.
The delivery drivers will also solicit additional orders when stopping at homes, asking whether customers would like to purchase anything else.
The Seino subsidiary will dispatch only employees who have passed an internal examination on customer service and driving skills. These employees will also be required to learn about the merchandise sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores, to ensure they can respond to inquiries.
Generally, the delivery drivers will be new hires, recruited in the areas they are to serve. The company plans to start with an initial group of 100, and then expand the team gradually. It also intends to focus on enlisting women.