Japan: JR East expanding unstaffed stores concept

Charles Chan
Senior Retail Analyst
@RetailAnalysis

Date : 14 October 2020

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) is planning to open 100 automated convenience stores over the next four years.

Expansion of cashless stores

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, plans to expand JR East’s unstaffed convenience store concept have accelerated. The company launched the first cashless NewDays convenience store at its Musashisakai Station (Tokyo) last year. In March, it then launched an unstaffed store at Takanawa Gateway Station (Tokyo). It now plans to automate 100 convenience stores by 2024. The initiative is well aligned to the government’s aim for more retail transactions to be cashless across the country.

Enabling contact-free and supporting labour shortages

JR East utilises a system developed by Touch To Go Co. Around 50 cameras are installed inside the store to identify items that the customer picks up. There are no cash registers, and customers pay by tapping their IC cards (train passes) upon exiting the store.

Staff members will restock products and update window displays, but the reduction in labour will help address worker shortages across the country. Furthermore, these unstaffed stores are contact-free and may help reduce the potential risk of spreading COVID-19.