Okinawa FamilyMart thrives for local flavor in its 300 stores in Okinawa
By Miki Shioda
Okinawa FamilyMart prides itself as a community-based convenience store chain that has more than 300 shops throughout the prefecture. Its business in the prefecture is run as an area franchise, and that gives it more leeway of making local plans that is the case with FamilyMart stores in mainland Japan, which are run and owned by the head office.
As they are convenience stores, they try to cover everything that one might need in the daily life. All except those located within larger facilities, such as the airport, are open 24 hours a day, and customers can shop whenever they need something. In Okinawa, their lunch (bento) boxes and onigiri (rice ball) include such local items as goya, spam onigiri, somen chanpuru, and taco rice. These items are marked with an “Okinawa DELI” sticker on the right corner of the package. Those are only available in Okinawa FamilyMart stores, and many tourists buy them for omiyage to take back home.
Other popular food items include fried chicken, spicy chicken and corndogs, which are good side dishes.
Recently, FamilyMart stores have installed “FamiCoffee” spots that allow customers to get hot or iced coffee in a few easy steps by themselves. I love their coffee because it’s fresh, and has a nice aroma. You just choose a cup and press a button. The machine has blended coffee, café latte and iced latte. Vanilla, hazelnut and caramel flavors are also available. They also have tasty “frappe.”
Other Family Mart-only products are Awamori coffee and Shiqwasa and Plum Wine Awamori. Awamori has a strong smell and taste that some people don’t like, however, it easy to drink when mixed. The cost ¥258 for 300ml including tax.
A FamilyMart associate asks you, “Do you have a T-point card?” whenever you are paying. The T-card is a customer discount card that can be used not only in FamilyMart stores but also at Yoshinoya and Gusto restaurants, Tsutaya video rental shops, Kanehide supermarkets, Shiraishi ENEOS gas stands, and more. At FamilyMart stores the card holder collects one point for every ¥200 purchase, which can then be used to pay at member stores for one yen for one point.
FamilyMart will have a special promotion event at the FamilyMart stores in front of KAB Gate 1 on Oct. 18, and Gate 3 on Oct. 19, from 11:00 to 17::00 at both places. They will help you to make a T-point card and explain in English how to use it.
FamilyMart has supported students in Okinawan universities since 2006 with a program called “Gaku P” (students’ product) to give them an opportunity to learn about marketing. Okinawa has seven universities and, as a part of this program, groups of student in each university create their own products. Some students are even choosing the class because they just want to attend Gaku P. They make TV commercials to promote the products and see how they actually sell. Many students say it’s more difficult that any exam in a class.
The winner each year is the school whose product sells the most. In this year’s contest, the products are sold through Oct. 18. Buy your favorite students’ product at a FamilyMart or vote on their website.
The Ryukyu Golden Kings is Okinawa’s pro-basketball team, and FamilyMart is one of their sponsors. Two stores called KingsMart are dedicated to the Kings and located in Omoromachi in Naha and in front of the Chatan City Office on Highway 58. In addition to FamilyMart products the two stores also sell Golden Kings’ goods.
Every fan of the team should visit one of the stores. The KingsMart in Chatan opened just last month. The store is easy to recognize, as its decorated outside with large pictures of King’s players.