Japanese C-retailer to Eyes U.S. Market Expansion

TORRANCE, Calif. -- First the British, via Tesco, and now the Japanese; actually the Japanese were here first. Famima Corp., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based convenience store chain FamilyMart Co., Ltd., said yesterday it would launch the third of 20-plus high-end specialty stores in the Los Angeles area in 2006, as part of a planned major U.S. rollout.

The format, also called Famima, is being touted as a new lifestyle specialty all-in-one community store, blending elements of a premium grocer, quick service restaurant, and convenience store. "Famima is your neighborhood deli, a quick service restaurant, your premium grocer, your banker, your personal business and stationery store, your local newsstand and internet provider, and your morning coffee stop," the company said.

On Friday, March 10, the Japanese retailer will hold the grand opening for store number three, at the popular Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We look forward to getting to know and becoming an active part of the community in the heart of Santa Monica's main tourist, shopping, and dining area -- just a few blocks from the beach," said Shiro Inoue, president and c.e.o. of Famima Corp.

Famima opened its first U.S. store in West Hollywood, Calif. in July, followed by a Westwood, Calif. location in December. This year the retailer plans to open 20 or more stores in the L.A. area, in such locations as Torrance, Hollywood, Glendale, downtown L.A., Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Pasadena.

Famima may soon find itself going head to head with Tesco, which just days ago said it would introduce its own version of an upscale convenience format on the U.S. West Coast.

Meanwhile, Famima has set a goal to have 250 stores operating in the United States by 2009. The parent company, FamilyMart, operates over 12,320 stores in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Thailand. Famima Corp. was founded in September 2004.

Customized to its local demographics, Famima's featured food items include fresh bakery goods, and deli sandwiches such as fresh-grilled panini; soups, fried chicken, and hot Chinese buns; gourmet salads; natural foods, sushi and Bento boxes; fresh produce; gourmet coffees, juices, and health drinks; and a broad assortment of refrigerated and frozen foods.

In addition to food items, Famima stores are stocked with daily and international newspapers and magazines, incense, stationery, travel accessories, and many other necessary every day items. The store also provides ATM machines, copier services, and Internet access.
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