Lawson Plans Convenience Store E-Comm JV

TOKYO (04/26/2000) - Lawson Inc. today became the latest among Japan's major convenience store chains to announce plans to enter the world of e-commerce.

The company, which operates a nationwide network of 7,400 stores, said it will tie up with Mitsubishi Corp., a major general trading company, to form a new as-yet-unnamed joint venture. The new company will launch online shopping services that customers can access through multiple channels including the Internet and cellular telephones. Customers will be able to pay for and pick up goods at Lawson convenience stores.

The model is similar to that being followed by Lawson's biggest rivals.

Seven Eleven Japan Co. Ltd. announced plans to establish an e-commerce joint venture with six other companies earlier this year to offer a wide variety of goods from airline tickets to custom-made MiniDiscs through in-store terminals.

[See "Seven Eleven Japan, Others to Launch E-Commerce JV," Jan. 6].

Less than a week after that announcement Sunkus & Associates and Circle K Japan Co. said they would launch a competing service to operate a Web-based supermarket. [See "Japan to Get Web-Based Convenience Store," Jan. 12].

With their vast networks of stores and corresponding distribution networks, the convenience stores believe they are ideally placed to play a major role in the new e-economy -- both as an extension of their existing retail operations and as a delivery and payment point for the goods of other e-commerce operators.

The computerized cash registers of most convenience stores are already set up to handle payment for a wide range of goods, from utility bills to public television licenses, and extending this to other companies is relatively easy.

Lawson, a subsidiary of supermarket operator Daiei Inc., will hold a 51 percent stake in the company while Mitsubishi holds the remaining stake. Mitsubishi owns a 20 percent stake in Lawson.

Lawson, based in Osaka, can be reached online at http://www.lawson.co.jp/.

Mitsubishi, in Tokyo, is online at http://www.mitsubishi.co.jp/.

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