Web Supermarket Launches In Japan

Tokyo-based e-Convenience Co. Ltd will soon provide Japanese consumers with the ability to buy groceries over the Internet, with delivery in two to three hours after the order.

The newly formed company’s backing consists of six firms, including SoftbankCorp., Japan’s largest Internet investor, and Hikari Tsushin, Inc. Other backers include convenience store operators Sunkus & Associates and Circle K Japan Co. Supermarket chain Uny Co. is also an investor.

The new service will debut on January 31st with 4,000 items, including vegetables, bread, and other supermarket products. The Web service will also include the delivery of lunch boxes to companies, and the sale of goods from affiliated Web sites.

Backers Hope E-Commerce Will Spur Lagging Economy

One of the goals for the investors is to help boost Japan’s economy. The country is in the midst of its deepest postwar recession.

The backers will invest $38 million (US$) over the next two years. The company expects to reach 10,000 member users during its first year, and aims to serve 150,000 consumers by Year Three.

Other Launches

Earlier this week, a group of convenience-store operators formed an e-commerce outlet to compete with Japan’s leading convenience store operator Seven-Eleven Japan Co Ltd. In Japan, convenience stores have been heavily involved in e-commerce.

The new e-commerce site was formed by a team of five companies, including FamilyMart Co., Japan’s third largest convenience store chain, and Circle K Japan Co., the country’s fifth largest convenience store.

Japan’s E-Commerce Lags Behind U.S.

Internet use in Japan is growing quickly, but its penetration is far less than in the U.S. Only 18 percent — or 22 million — of Japan’s population is wired to the Internet. In the U.S., an estimated 50 percent of adults have access to the Web.

The group launching the Web supermarket is hoping to gain an e-commerce foothold in the world’s second-largest economy.

So far, convenience stores have led e-tailing in Japan. Japan supports 50,000 convenience stores that are open 24 hours per day.

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