Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Convenience stores high on drugs?

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Takeshi Niinami was a frequent visitor to the drugstore Walgreens in the United States when he was studying at Harvard business school about 20 years ago, buying food and household items in addition to medicine there.

“I wished we had stores like that. It would have been so convenient,” said Niinami, now CEO of Lawson, Japan’s second-largest convenience store chain.

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Niinami is finally seeing his wish come true, announcing last week that Lawson will team up with Japan’s No. 1 drugstore chain Matsumotokiyoshi to jointly open outlets that combine drugstores and convenience stores after the government introduced less rigorous restrictions on selling most over-the-counter medicine earlier this year. Niinami sees offering medicine as key in his store makeover efforts to appeal to the older generation.

Still, some recent media coverage on the topic would make you think pharmaceuticals are going to be readily available at your nearby ”combini” in a flash, which looks highly doubtful. In fact, it’s unlikely we’ll see drugs on the shelves at the majority of the country’s 42,000-plus convenience stores, at least under the current regulations.

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