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How our changing eating habits led to the success of this convenience store

Last week my friend Lik Khai invited me to the opening of his second Family Mart store in KL.

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This one in MidValley.

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The first store opened in Wisma Lim Foo Yong about a month ago and was met with great fanfare. The store is constantly packed throughout the day and night. I was there at 1AM last Friday and it was packed. KL is a city that isn’t short of convenience stores.

Throw a stone anywhere in the territory and you would probably hit three. So what’s the deal? How does Family Mart expect to stand out against the incumbent 7-11 that has some 2,000 over stores in Malaysia.

IMG_20161201_100536 The answer is pretty simple: Food. One trend that Lik Khai spotted was the rise of “convenient takeaways”. Today Malaysians work longer hours and families often have two income earners with both husband and wife working. So less of us have time to cook especially on weekdays.

The alternative is takeaway. Traditionally we’d go to any roadside store or economy rice shop to takeaway something for lunch or dinner and bring it back to our office or home to eat. The rise of food delivery services too capitalise on this trend. There are a few issues though:

              1. Takeaway food is often unhealthy – They’re often deep fried and stuff.
              2. Takeaway food from delivery services are expensive.

Here’s the gap that Family Mart looks to fill. Instead of the usual convenience store stuff you can find like chocolates, sweets, condoms… whatever.

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You’ll also find a lot of fresh food that’s delivered daily like this.

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That you can take it to the counter and just have them heat it up for you. Voila a hot meal in a few minutes and some healthy stuff too.If you’re more snacky and less concerned about healthy stuff like me there’s also this.

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Or the popular Tom Yam Oden.

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Or if you want to just grab something really quick that you can eat later you can get my wife’s favorite Onigiri.

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Once you’re done picking your main course, there’s of course the drink. In addition to the usual soft drinks and all you’ll find a whole range of Japanese drinks that in the past you would only be able to find in Japan.

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Drinks is another big plus of Family Mart for me. Many times I walk into a convenience store and I feel like a cold drink. But here’s the challenge. Try to go to a random convenient store and buy a cold drink that isn’t sweet.

There isn’t. Just about every drink on the shelf of a convenience store in Malaysia is sweet apart from milk.

In Family Mart they have lots of non-sweet drinks like their own range of tea.

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I personally like the Jasmine tea.

Or you could have their freshly made coffee too without sugar.

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Now if you don’t care much for watching sugar and you’re a sweet tooth, they also have a shelf for dessert.

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I liked the Green Tea Panna Cotta.

The best part is that all these things are really reasonably priced. The Onigiri cost about RM4 and two of them are enough to fill me up for lunch.

Well the tea from Japan is expensive at around RM8 a bottle because they’re imported from Japan but you can always pick the local options for the drink.

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All in all my wife and I love it. Just the other night after our movie we were looking for something to eat and settled on dropping by the store and picking up some Onigiri.

The bigger lesson for me here with Family Mart is the business lesson. That no matter how crowded a market is, if you manage to find a need that people have and introduce a solution to that need you’ll do really well.

That’s why Family Mart’s success is inspiring. Their slant for fresh food that you can takeaway is no accident. It’s planned and that’s why they’re the only convenience store in Malaysia with lines that would make Apple proud.


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