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Shrinking population threatens Japan's convenience stores

Glut of minimarts puts operators on notice as customer bases dwindle

The Lawson convenience store chain has one store at the northern tip of Hokkaido with a customer base of about 3,000 people, down 15% from a decade ago.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Convenience stores have saturated their markets across much of Japan, but those in northern regions are facing particularly harsh competition due to a rapidly declining population.

Japan boasts roughly 57,000 convenience stores, a glut resulting from a yearslong campaign by national chains to gain scale through a plethora of shop openings. This expansion was easiest to achieve in Japan's north because of relatively cheaper real estate.

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