Hong Kong/Tokyo

Masatoshi Ito, the Japanese billionaire who turned 7-Eleven comfort shops into a world empire, has died aged 98, closing the chapter on one among Asia’s most storied retail entrepreneurs.

Seven & I Holdings

, operator of 7-Eleven, confirmed the demise in an announcement on Monday, including that Ito died from previous age on March 10.

“We want to categorical our deepest gratitude to your kindness and friendship throughout his life and respectfully inform you of his passing,” the corporate mentioned.

Ito remodeled on a regular basis retail in Japan, turning a US-born firm into a world model, significantly in Asia the place 7-Eleven retailers are hardly ever quite a lot of minutes’ stroll away in lots of cities.

Seven & I Holdings now operates over 83,000 shops world wide, together with 7-Eleven retailers in 19 areas and international locations in addition to the Speedway comfort retailer chain in the US.

A 7-Eleven convenience store in Japan's Kanagawa Prefecture, on January 9, 2023.

Chief rivals embody the Japanese-owned Lawson and Household Mart comfort retailer franchises, however neither has reached the sheer measurement or international attain of the 7-Eleven empire.

Ito’s enterprise acumen was influenced by his friendship with the late administration advisor Peter Drucker, who described Ito as “one of many world’s excellent entrepreneurs and enterprise builders.”

In a 1988 interview with The Journal of Japanese Commerce and Business, Ito mentioned he traveled to the US in 1960 and “skilled a form of cultural shock at how wealthy everyone appeared” at a time when Japan was recovering from the aftermath of World Battle II.

“I turned significantly aware of the sheer measurement of America’s client society and the distribution methods that made all of it doable,” he was quoted as saying.

“It then occurred to me that individuals in several cultures nonetheless have mainly the identical needs, assuming that they’re on the identical of improvement, and I believed that Japan’s distribution system would change into extra like America’s because the Japanese client society grew larger.”

The comfort retailer chain traces its origin to 1927, when a number of icehouse corporations merged to type the Southland Ice Firm in Dallas, Texas.

To replicate their prolonged hours of operation, the shops have been renamed in 1946 as 7-Eleven: open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

So, how did 7-Eleven change into synonymous with the Japanese comfort retailer tradition as we all know it right this moment?

Ito is the post-war entrepreneur credited for making it a world model that sells all the pieces from yoghurt to ready-made meals and medication, by way of a sequence of acquisitions and expansions between the Seventies and Nineteen Nineties.
In line with state broadcaster NHK, Ito obtained his begin in 1958, when he turned the president of a small attire retailer in Tokyo that was run by his household.

He later stared promoting meals and different each day requirements. He renamed the corporate Ito Yokado and began operating the enterprise like a US grocery store.

Ito Yokado later solid a cope with 7-Eleven’s proprietor, the Southland Company, and opened Japan’s first 7-Eleven in Tokyo in 1974.

His agency then acquired a controlling stake in Southland in March 1991. A yr later Ito resigned as president of Ito Yokado “to take accountability for alleged payoffs to racketeers by firm officers,” in line with NHK.

Ito Yokado was renamed Seven & I Holdings in 2005, and Ito remained its honorary chairman till his demise.

Wanting again at 7-Eleven’s success, Ito was quoted as saying within the 1988 interview: “I’m often requested if I succeeded due to arduous work or as a result of I used to be simply fortunate. The reply is a few of each.”

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