Food in Japanese Kombinis cries “grab me!”

August 26, 2008

in experience, japan, marketing, sabbatical

Japanese Kombinis, from the english “convenience store”, are small everything-you-might-ever-ever-need shops spread all around Japan (more than 40.000 according to Japan Guide) and usually open 24hs. There are many of them, 7 eleven, AM/PM, Sunkus, Family Mart, Heart-in, Lawson (my fav) and often you find several in the same block. I read somewhere (can’t find the source, sorry) that they are a very important player in Japanese retailing with a strong negotiation power against producers.

Inside you’ll find any kind of things that you might need (and I mean it), from food to hygiene products, from emergency clothes to toys. An example of the things you can buy there:

  • tooth brush and toothpaste
  • disposable underwear (made of paper cloth)
  • drinks of any kind (cold & hot)
  • potato chips, sweets, chocolates
  • soups, sushi, sandwiches and other food (healthy too)
  • copier and fax machine
  • ATM
  • ice creams
  • pencils, ball pens and stationary
  • insecticides
  • washing soap and detergent
  • car parts
  • magazines and newspapers

As any good retailer knows, unless you’re selling online like Amazon where Long Tail dynamics tend to apply, shelf space is very important. If two competing products have the same category of space available (considering also the product accessibility, visibility, etc) then the battle switches to other fronts like the price or brand. If these are even, then you go to the “attraction” power of packaging. And here is where the real war is taking place in Japan. Packaging is striking: flashy, dynamic, exuberant, or just plain crazy. Even international brands adapt to match its shelf competitors. Products must shout “look at me, grab me, it’s me that you want!”.

Kombini stuff

So the story goes that this morning I went to a Kombini to buy something for breakfast (iced coffee, chocolate cookies…) and while moving to the cashier my sight was caught… actually captured, judged and imprisoned, by this pack of… err… at the time I only new it was near to the potato chips.

Kombini stuff

If you’re a psychologist you must be thinking I have a weird personality for taking it. I was curious to see what kind of product could have such a disturbing image: a naked baby cyclops with a typical Japanese cook headband.

How healthy can this be?

Kombini stuff

Well, more than 12 hours have passed and I’m still alive. They seemed to be some kind of corn balls or “chizitos” (argentinians will understand).

These are other products I bought once I needed something sweet.

money can't buy me love...

More info on Japan’s Kombinis. Kombini Life shows pictures and stories about food found in this places.

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