June 29, 2022

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7-Eleven Franchisee Who Rebelled Against Company Loses in Court

2 min read

OSAKA, Japan — Mitoshi Matsumoto, the man who has waged a David-and-Goliath campaign against the Japanese convenience store giant 7-Eleven, stood in front of a roomful of the company’s franchisees on Thursday, bowed deeply and apologized.

Mr. Matsumoto has spent the last two and a half years fighting in court for control of a 7-Eleven store that the company forced out of business after he refused to operate it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. His struggle has become a rallying point for thousands of convenience store owners across the country who have bristled against the company’s rigid control of their franchises, hoping that a victory would help them win a measure of independence.

But on Thursday afternoon, a judge ordered Mr. Matsumoto to immediately hand his store in the Osaka suburbs, which he opened in 2012, over to the company and pay around $845,000 in estimated damages for lost business.

After the ruling, Mr. Matsumoto said that he was sorry to have let his supporters down, but that he intended to fight on and appeal the ruling. “It would have been better if we’d gotten a good result, but the push to shorten hours is going to keep moving forward,” he said.

In a statement, a 7-Eleven spokesman said that the ruling was “appropriate,” adding that the company would “work even harder for the patronage of customers in the region.”

The case’s final outcome is likely to have profound implications for the relationships between Japan’s convenience store companies and the more than 50,000 outlets they control. 7-Eleven’s locations account for more than 40 percent of those stores, and for decades the company has been seen as the industry standard.

Mr. Matsumoto’s problems began in early 2019, when he decided he would shorten his store’s hours, closing five hours every night in defiance of company policy. He was exhausted, labor had become increasingly unaffordable, and he had decided that the revenue from staying open into the wee hours…

Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno

2022-06-23 06:59:48

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