Hong Kong / Tokyo (CNN) Masatoshi Ito, the Japanese billionaire who turned 7-Eleven convenience stores into a global empire, has died at the age of 98, closing a chapter on one of Asia’s most celebrated retail entrepreneurs.
Seven & I Holdings (SVNDF)the operator of 7-Eleven, confirmed the death of V a permit on Monday, adding that Eto’o died of old age on March 10.
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for your kindness and friendship during his lifetime and respectfully inform you of his passing,” the company said.
Ito transformed everyday retail in Japan, and turned a US-born company into an international brand, particularly in Asia where 7-Eleven stores are rarely located within a few minutes’ walk in many cities.
Seven & I Holdings now operates more than 83,000 stores worldwide, including 7-Eleven stores in 19 regions and countries as well as the Speedway chain of stores in the United States.
Its main competitors include the Japanese-owned Lawson and Family Mart department store franchises, but neither has reached the sheer size or global reach of the 7-Eleven empire.
Eto’o’s business acumen was influenced by his friendship with the late management consultant Peter Drucker, who described Ito “as one of the preeminent entrepreneurs and business builders in the world.”
in 1988 interview With Japan’s Journal of Trade and Industry, Ito said he traveled to the United States in 1960 and “experienced a kind of culture shock about how rich everyone was” at a time when Japan was recovering from the aftermath of World War II.
He was quoted as saying “I became especially aware of the sheer scale of the consumer society in America and the distribution technologies that made it all possible.”
“It then occurred to me that people in different cultures still had essentially the same desires, assuming they were in the same development, and I thought that Japan’s distribution system would become more like the American one as the Japanese consumer society grew.”
The rise of 7-Eleven
The convenience store chain traces its origin to 1927, when several Icehouse companies merged to form Icehouse Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas.
To reflect the extended hours, the stores were renamed in 1946 as 7-Eleven: open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
So how did 7-Eleven become so synonymous with Japanese convenience store culture as we know it today?
Ito is credited with making it a global brand selling everything from yogurt to ready meals and medicine, through a series of acquisitions and expansions between the 1970s and 1990s.
According to state broadcaster NHK, Ito He got his start In 1958, when he became the president of a small clothing store in Tokyo that was run by his family.
Later he stared at the sale of food and other daily necessities. He renamed the company Ito Yokado and began running the business like a supermarket in the United States.
Ito Yokado later made a deal with 7-Eleven’s owner, Southland Corporation, and opened Japan’s first 7-Eleven in Tokyo in 1974.
his company after that acquired a controlling stake in Southland in March 1991. A year later Ito resigned as Ito Yokado’s boss “to take responsibility for alleged compensation to extortionists by company officials,” according to NHK.
In 2005, Seven & I Holdings was established as the holding company for Ito-Yokado and Seven-Eleven Japan, and Ito remained its honorary chairman until his death.
Looking back on 7-Eleven’s success, Ito was quoted as saying in a 1988 interview: “I’m often asked if I succeeded because of hard work or because I was just lucky. The answer is some of both.”
This story has been updated with additional details.
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