As any visitor to Hawaii will tell you, a ubiquitous presence in all of the major resort areas in the islands is either an ABC Store or one of the branded stores of Shops of Hawaii (Accents, Products of Hawaii, Too, Whalers General Store etc.). ABC Stores has 59 locations in the islands and 39 on Oahu alone, most of which are located in Waikiki.
Beginning in July 2012, however, there is a new player in the game aiming to get their share of visitor dollars and, more specifically, yen. Aimed primarily for the improving Japanese tourist market, Lawson, Inc. has opened the first two of what they expect to be numerous Lawson Station stores n Hawaii.
About Lawson Inc.
Lawson, Inc. is the second largest convenience store chain in Japan (second only to convenience franchise giant 7-Eleven) with over 10,000 store outlets in Japan and 300 in China and Indonesia. Lawson USA Hawaii, Inc. a subsidiary of Lawson, Inc. was established in January 2012 to open stores in Hawaii. They have already hired over 50 employees, including the two store managers, all from the local Hawaii labor market. Lawson plans to open 20-30 stores on Oahu, mainly in the Honolulu/Waikiki area over the next three years.
But why, then, does a large Japanese company bear a distinctly American name and even have a logo that features an old fashioned milk can?
The company actually had its origins in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in 1939 when a dairy owner, J.J. Lawson started a store at his dairy plant to sell his milk. Over the succeeding years the company grew to a chain of convenience stores in Ohio and in 1959 was bought out by Consolidated Foods. From the 1960s to 1980s, the Lawson Stores were common throughout Ohio, but were eventually renamed Dairy Mart.
In 1974, Consolidated signed a formal agreement with Daiei Inc. to open the first Lawson stores in Japan forming a new subsidiary called Daiei Lawson Co., Ltd. The first of the new Lawson stores opened in Sakurazuka, Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture in June 1975. In September 1979 the official name was changed to Lawson Japan, Inc.
First Two Stores in Waikiki
On July 7, 2012, Lawson opened its first two stores in Waikiki - Lawson Station Sheraton Waikiki and Lawson Station Moana Surfrider. It's no mere coincidence that the first two stores are located at two of Waikiki's most prestigious hotels. The Sheraton Waikiki and Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa are two of the properties owned by Kyo-Ya Hotels & Resorts, LP and Cerberus Partners LP. They are two of the eleven properties in Hawaii managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
The Lawson Station store within the Sheraton Waikiki is the larger of the two stores with 2,107 square feet and offering about 3200 unique products including a special display featuring about 1500 souvenir items. The store at the Moana Surfrider is smaller, at 663 square feet and offering approximately 1000 unique items.
Inside the Stores
The new Lawson Station stores carry a variety of Japanese fast foods, American snacks, beverages, beach goods, sundries and gifts from the islands. Japanese speaking staff are available at most times to assist visitors from Japan.
Clearly aimed primarily for the numerous Japanese visitors who stay at these two hotels, some of the more popular fresh food items available are Onigiri (Japanese rice balls often called musubi in Hawaii), somen bowls and salads, crust-less Japanese sandwiches, and freshly prepared Oden, a Japanese one-pot dish in which ingredients are slowly simmered in soy sauce based soup.
The stores also carry an extensive selection of Japanese and American canned fish and meats, Japanese and American cookies, Japanese noodles and soups and Japanese style udon noodles. There is an ample selection of Japanese and American liquors, beers and other beverages as well as regular and refrigerated pastries, frozen ice cream and other novelty treats.
In addition there is a large selection of Japanese cosmetics and Japanese magazines along with plenty of Hawaii gifts and beach towels.
American shoppers will enjoy many of the items mentioned previously as well as many standard American snack and gift items.