How Japanese Mini-Marts Cater to Older Customers

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By Danica Lo Posted August 23, 2016

Heat-and-eat meals are rated on a chewability scale of one to five.

With nearly 30 percent of its national population over 65-years-old, Japan's convenience retail businesses are taking notice and restructuring their offerings and services—and even staffing!—to cater to older customers. At Lawson, the country's second-largest convenience store chain after 7-11, re-evaluating its shopper demographics has led to an ever-evolving variety of SKUs on store shelves. "We try to accommodate the changes in society," Lawson spokesperson Ming Li told NPR.

To that end, neighborhood Lawson stores have stocked up on heat-and-eat meals—that are labeled with an older customer in mind: "They're rated at levels from one to five, based on how hard it is to chew what's inside." There are also fresh food options, already portioned and packaged for solo diners—"There are packages of raw vegetables and meat, much of it already cut up and packaged in single-serving amounts for the increasing number of older people living alone these days in Japan."

And convenience stories—once the provenance of candies, chips, and kid-friendly treats like Slurpees—are now stocking aisles with personal care products for its older shoppers, such as "items to deal with incontinence and its consequences" including "strong, deodorizing laundry detergent or devices that are useful for giving bed baths." Some branches of the chain store have completely committed to elder care. Renamed "Care Lawson," these locations employ health care professionals such as nursing care managers, who pay house calls to local clients and can serve as a referral service for families looking for additional help—including adult day care.

Japan's population has faced steady decline over the past seven years due to increased death rate and declining birth rate.

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