100-Yen Stores: One-Stop, One-Price
Need an envelope, umbrella or garden tools? Looking for kitchenware or underwear? No time to shop? Visit Japan's solution to one-stop shopping, the one-hundred yen store. Once, these bargain paradises were enough to satisfy, but lately they're getting a marketing make-over.
Whatever you need, chances are it's available on the cheap at a brightly lit, cram-packed hundred-yen store—similar to popular "dollar stores" in the U.S. For years, Japan's popular one-hundred yen shops have carried most of the things you need in life: kitchen gadgets, clothing, bath accessories, stationary, batteries, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, toys, jewelry . . . everything to sate the appetite except—fresh food.
Now, for those hungering for truly exceptional deals, the next generation of hundred-yen shops has arrived. Around the country, one hundred yen, 99- and even 98-yen stores now carry fresh food items not available at existing hundred-yen shops. These upstart retailers follow the business model of convenience stores, offering ready-to-eat meals along with vegetables, fruit, meats and other fresh foods and snacks—but all at only one low price. And like convenience stores, some are open 24 hours a day—or at least till midnight.
The Japanese lifestyle typically involves shopping for small amounts of fresh food daily, and the immense popularity of these stores is owing in part to the fact that their fresh foods are sold in small packages and in portions that are ideal for only one or two people to consume at a time. Shoppers can select from half- or quarter-heads of cabbage, for example, along with single pieces of fruit, small amounts of shredded pork, individual fish fillets, pre-made meals and ready-chopped vegetables. Such marketing tactics focus not only on consumers who prefer fresh food products (and little waste), they also address the rapidly growing marketing segment of single-person households in this country.
In recent years, the number of these smaller households in Japan has expanded, representing over 50 percent of the total in 2000: single-person households accounted for 27.6 percent, and two-person households accounted for 25.1 percent of the total. Both of these rates are expected to continue to rise as the population ages.
Typically, consumers purchase fresh food at greengrocers and supermarkets, but unlike supermarkets, which tend to be somewhat spacious, one-price stores are small like convenience stores, and feature their varied merchandise tightly packed side-by-side on the shelves. This arrangement is user-friendly for busy people and the elderly—they can quickly find what they are looking for without having to wander around a larger store. These shops also offer the convenience of one-stop shopping along with the ease of paying with single 100-yen coins, more reasons for their popularity.
To compete, convenience store chains have responded by opening their own one-price outlets featuring fresh food; large retail chains are also developing private brands to differentiate themselves. All one-price stores make a strong effort to manage the quality and freshness of their food products so that they can compete with supermarkets.
Consumers now find themselves faced with lower prices and higher quality, together with retail choices that didn't exist only a few years ago. Never has a mere one hundred yen been worth so much.