Dispute has been going on for more than three years, has led to two 7-Elvenes in same parking lot.

Japan has a very high concentration of convenience stores, but even by those standards, things are pretty strange in Higashiosaka City. That’s because there’s a parking lot in the Minami-Kamikosaka that doesn’t just have two convenience stores in the same parking lot, but two 7-Elevens.

Well, it sort of has two 7-Elevens. The older of the two stores started out as a normal franchise branch, but in February 2019 the owner, Mitoshi Matsumoto, stopped keeping the place open 24 hours a day, saying he didn’t have enough staff to do so anymore. However, 7-Eleven requires its branches to operate around the clock, and says the reduced operating hours were leading to complaints about the Minami-Kamikosaka store.

On December 31, 2019, 7-Eleven revoked Matsumoto’s franchise license, but the fight was just getting started. Though cut off from the 7-Eleven supply network and sales support, Matsumoto continued to operate the store for a few more weeks, with all of its 7-Eleven signage intact, before it went into a suspended state of non-operation around the same time that the pandemic ramped up.

We visited Matsumoto’s store in January of 2020, when he still had some of his 7-Eleven-supplied stock left over to sell.

With Matsumoto unwilling to voluntarily vacate the branch, 7-Eleven filed a lawsuit against him, while Matsumoto counter-filed, seeking to assert his ownership of the store. With the lawsuit ongoing, 7-Eleven also built another branch at the same parking lot, which has been open 24 hours a day since its opening in May of 2021.

▼ The new 7-Eleven (left) and Matsumoto’s store (right) at the time of our second visit to the site

So in total, the fight between Matsumoto and 7-Eleven has now been going on for close to three and a half years. On Thursday, though, the Osaka district court reached a decision, and it sided with 7-Eleven.

In rendering his verdict, judge Masanori Yokota cited Matsumoto’s deviance from 7-Eleven’s established policy of 24-hour service, and that the company’s demand that he conform to what customers expect of the chain in order to uphold its brand image was a reasonable requirement for a franchise owner. As such, Yokota ruled that 7-Eleven’s cancellation of the agreement was legal, and that accordingly ownership of the branch reverts to 7-Eleven and Matsumoto must vacate the store. Yokota also ordered Matsumoto to pay 14,5 million yen (approximately US$108,000) in damages to 7-Eleven.

When we spoke to Matsumoto in January of 2020, he told us “If the court decides I’m wrong, I’ll hand over the store and walk away.” However, he was far less docile followingthe announcement of the verdict. “This is an unfair judgement,” he told reporters outside the courthouse. “I was very angry when I heard the verdict. Of course I will be filing an appeal,” he vowed, adding “Now I’m really ready to fight.”

Sources: Asahi Shimbun Digital, TBS, Nikkan Sports
Photos © SoraNews24
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