The new FU

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

It seems everyone who visits Japan loves Japan’s take on the convenience store, or コンビニ. Part grocery, part cafe, part post-office, part bookstore, part - well, you name it, nowadays the Conbini is as iconic as the ramen restaurant. And two of Japan’s largest chains, Family Mart and Uny, owner of the Circle K/Sunkus stores, just merged last week, turning themselves into a Japanese chain second only to 7-11, a.k.a. Seven & I Holdings, and surpassing the previous #2 chain, Lawson.


Circle K / Sunkus stores will be rebranded as FamilyMart, the current No. 3 player. This merger will lead to a total of about 18,000 FamilyMart outlets in Japan, nearly the same as 7-11, for the merged company, called FamilyMart Uny. FamilyMart and Uny struck an agreement in October last year to merge and set up the holding company, with FamilyMart as the surviving entity. The company will also continue to operate Uny grocery stores, as well. 

FamilyMart has franchise stores in the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, China (Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Suzhou), and Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City). In addition, South Korean franchisees operate two stores in North Korea for South Korean visitors and workers in the Kaesong Industrial Region and Mount Kumgang Tourist Region. The chain tried to launch in the United States, and planned hundreds of stores, but ultimately in 2015 closed the only 8 stores it opened, all in Los Angeles. The South Korean stores are called “CU” and are not owned by the Japanese firm.


The word "Sunkus" is a combination of the words "Sun" and the word “Thanks". The logo is a combination of the words "Sun", "Kids", and “Us.” If the name “Circle K” sounds familiar, its because Uny licensed the Circle K name from Alimentation Couche-Tard, a Canadian convenience store company that owns the Circle K brand - the same brand that was started in Texas in 1951. Ironically, Circle K has a strange tie to Lawson, as well, which originated in Cuyahoga Falls, near Cleveland and Akron, Ohio in 1939. Over time, Lawson’s stores gradually became “Dairy Mart” stores and in 2002, Alimentation Couche-Tard (the same company that owns Circle K!) also bought the assets and name of Dairy Mart. Most U.S. Lawson’s stores became Circle K stores, just like now, in Japan, most Circle K stores will become Family Mart stores. 


As useful as their stores are already, FamilyMart Uny is not planning to stop with simple Conbinis, though. The new giant is pursuing adding Karaoke and day care centers to their stores.

Oh, and their logo? It will be just two letters:  "F U" 

That's not a joke.



The Japan Times

Kyoto News

Japan Today