Next Generation Convenience Store Manager: My experience so far
Author – Sean Taylor, Business Development Manager, Panasonic UK
My last two blogs have taken a look at why we, as Panasonic, have opened our own convenience store with FamilyMart. Since then, I have had the opportunity to talk directly to two of my Japanese colleagues who are heavily involved in this project. It was an interesting discussion about their journey to bring this project to life - the challenges, the results and the future.
My conversation was with Mr. Takuya Miyashita, president of the business unit owning this project, and the store manager, Mr. Suguru Fujita.
Mr. Takuya Miyashita, President of Store Business Solutions Company (Panasonic) and Mr. Suguru Fujita, Store Manager of FamilyMart Saedo store (Panasonic)
Mr. Fujita is the store manager managing FamilyMart Saedo store that is the demonstration place to realise the next generation convenience store. He works for Panasonic and this is the first time for him to work at a convenience store. He told me that no working day is the same in the store.
"Before opening this store, I completed some on the job training (OJT). This included stock replenishment and customer service at an actual store and I spent time learning about basic store operations. However, in real-life, applied action is required continuously. Every day, the staff and I are using an element of trial and error to find the best approach to daily management. " (Mr. Fujita)
He says that his biggest challenge currently is the ordering process.
"A store with 2-3 years history can forecast demand by SKU based on the historic data and the knowledge. However, it is difficult for a new store like us. There is often a gap between the demand forecast and sales result, thus we are taking a process of trial and error with our store staffs. We are studying and implementing countermeasures in each case. As a result, we are building our experience and our knowledge. " (Mr. Fujita)
Shoppers enjoy our new solution
"Our Mobile ordering and delivery service is one of the most satisfying experiences for our customers. Currently, (as the service is limited to Panasonic employees) ordered items are delivered to an entrance of Panasonic office building. Customer feedback tells us that they really like the convenience of this service. Especially on rainy day, it is very useful as they don’t need to go outside." (Mr. Fujita) In fact, the number of orders received on rainy day is 1.5 times higher.
Another are that is well-used by customers is our eat-in space. On week days, many car drivers use the facility to stop and take a rest. On the weekends, families with children are spending time in this space. By utilising IoT data marketing, we are analysing this space to understand it’s impact on turn over. In parallel, we are looking to create more comfortable areas based upon the data intelligence we are gathering.
Store staff feel the benefit of ESLs
When asked for feedback about the solutions instore, the most positive feedback is given about Electronic Shelf Label(ESL). "In case of paper tags, store staff need to cut and update each tag delivered from HQ to store every week. ESLs is reducing this burden of work a lot. It helps to save resources." (Mr. Fujita)
What does the future hold?
Currently Mr. Fujita faces more challenges with managing the store staff effectively " In the first month after store opening, basically I was struggling to master a basic operation in the store. By the second month, I was getting used to them and I am now experiencing some difficulty in staff management – especially the creation of work shift schedules and staff training. The reputation of this store is standing out above others because of the collaboration and we are receiving more applicants for each job than other convenience stores do. However, despite our opening times being limited from 6am to 11pm, it can be difficult to secure enough resources to cover the early morning shifts. This resource situation is much worse in other convenience stores that open 24/7. I am strongly in favour of labour saving solutions and really want to expand our Panasonic solutions to other stores as well." (Mr. Fujita)
"Our target is to expand our solutions, tested in this store, to all other FamilyMart stores. Toward this target, development plans are set by each solution and turning Plan-Do-Check-Action cycle at a high speed by testing what is already available in some other stores and find new rooms to be improved." (Mr. Miyashita)
FamilyMart is also keen to expand our solutions to their other stores.
By developing our knowledge and expertise through an actual store operation, we are pursuing a format of the next generation convenience store. In the not too distant future, we would like to see this format become the standard for general convenience stores.