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24-hour stores becoming norm

Date Posted: 2002-04-17

Stores being open for business 24 hours a day are becoming the norm in the nation. With the change in the law regulating large-scale stores, more and more of the nation’s supermarkets and department stores are opting to stay open around the clock.

As the law regulating the large-scale stores changed lifting most of the restrictions placed on them changed in June 2000, many small convenient stores and mom and pop operated family stores have been watching with trepidation at how the nation’s large retailers would respond. The answer is, more and more of them are opting for a round-the-clock operation.

One of the first to take advantage of the new regulations in Okinawa was ValuMart, a supermarket chain owned by a retail giant Jusco. “We conducted a survey and our customers clearly preferred us to stay open 24 hours a day. This has also increased our sales, so it’s good for business,” a store manager at a Naha Shinmachi ValuMart said. “We always used to be very crowded from four to seven every day, but since we began to be open 24 hours a day, the crowds have spread out, we don’t have problems with parking space and lines at the registers have shortened significantly. All in all, I think this is a big step forward for our customer service,” he said.

Currently, Jusco has eight ValuMart stores in Okinawa that are open 24 hours a day. Officials at SanA, another large retail chain-store operator that started 42-hour operations at selected locations from February, say that the move so far has increased sales by some 5 percent.

But others are not so sure that keeping the stores open around the clock is worthwhile. “Should we operate 24 hours a day, we would need to hire midnight crews, more security personnel, and it would also increase our other operating costs. With all that, I don’t think it would increase our overall profits,” a spokesman for Kanehide supermarket chain says.

24-hours a day operation has been a part of a business plan for some smaller operators from the start. “Small supermarkets will benefit from operating around the clock,” Masahiko Higa, a store manager at a Union supermarket in Ginowan City says. “We are flexible and can provide what the shoppers really need. But I don’t think large chain stores can make a profit by staying open 24 hours a day, because their organization is too big and inflexible."

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