More convenience stores offer pickup services for e-shoppers in Japan

A growing number of convenience stores are offering a service that allows online shoppers to pick up their purchases at the stores at their convenience.

The service allows customers to conveniently shop online whenever they like without having to wonder when they will be at home to take delivery of the item, which appeals to those who are frequently away from home, as well as those who prefer to not be bothered with accepting deliveries in person.

By offering the service, major convenience store chains have successfully attracted people who tend to frequently be away from home, such as those who live alone or married couples who both work, according to the three biggest convenience store chains in Japan: Seven-Eleven Japan Co., FamilyMart Co. and Lawson Inc. They add that the service appeals to women who are uncomfortable speaking with deliverymen at their front door.

About a dozen online shopping sites, including Amazon and Rakuten Books, offer pickup services with the three major convenience store chains. Once items are ordered on these sites for in-store pickup, they are addressed to a convenience store selected by the customer and then delivered by courier. The delivered items are handed over after the customer gets a receipt for them from an in-store terminal and presents it.

Convenience stores that offer pickup services differ depending on the shopping site. Just about any convenience store will offer in-store pickup if they are among one of the chains that includes the service, which means customers can choose a store that is close to home or on their way to work. Many online shopping sites offer convenience store pickup free of charge, but some charge a fee. Some items offered by these sites are excluded from the service because of their size or other factors.

Expanding co-operation

Major convenience store chains began to offer full-fledged in-store pickup services with unaffiliated online shopping sites about seven or eight years ago. In 2007, FamilyMart became the first to offer the service when it began taking book orders for Rakuten Books, which was followed by Lawson taking orders for Amazon in 2008.

Lawson plans to have its stores take on orders for as many as five new companies in fiscal 2015, incluging online shopping sites serviced by Sagawa Express Co.

In addition, starting this summer, FamilyMart is expanding its in-store pickup services to include several online retail shops run by Rakuten Inc.

As of now, Seven & i Holdings Co. and the pickup services offered by its Seven-Eleven shops and other stores strictly focus on affiliated online shopping sites. However, a company spokesperson said, "We may partner with other online shopping sites outside of our company in the near future."

The benefits of in-store pickup services are not limited to the customers who use them - both convenience stores and couriers also benefit. For instance, by expanding their in-store pickup services, convenience stores can expect to see an increase in their customer base.

And couriers and transporters can increase distribution efficiency if they curtail their redeliveries by focusing on delivering to convenience store locations.

Redelivery due to absent recipients was necessary in 20 per cent of about 4.1 million items surveyed in 2014 by Yamato Transport Co., Sagawa Express, and Japan Post Network Co.

Following an increase in online shoppers, the number of items handled by domestic courier services rose to about 3.64 billion in fiscal 2013, which is approximately double the amount delivered 15 years earlier, according to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. In June, the ministry began to look for further co-operation between online shopping sites, courier services and the major convenience store chains in the hope of creating more measures to decrease redeliveries. In light of this, in-store pickup services will likely only expand.