Masatoshi Ito – Masatoshi Ito, a Japanese millionaire, died last week at the age of 98.
Ito was instrumental in the globalization of 7-Eleven convenience shops.
His death brings an end to the story of one of Asia’s most successful retail entrepreneurs.
In a statement issued on Monday, Seven & I Holdings (SVNDF), which controls 7-Eleven, announced Matasoshi Ito’s death.
They confirmed on March 10 that Ito died of old age.
“We would like to express our deepest gratitude for your kindness and friendship during his life and respectfully inform you of his passing,” the statement reads.
Masatoshi Ito was the man who transformed Japanese retail and made the corporation founded in the United States into a global brand.
7-Eleven stores have become a standard throughout Asia since his engagement with the firm, with a store within a few minutes’ walk in many cities.
Seven & I Holdings now has over 83,000 outlets globally.
Their impact extends to 7-Eleven locations in 19 different regions and nations.
In the United States, the firm also manages the Speedway convenience store network.
Lawson and FamilyMart convenience store franchises, both owned by Japanese firms, are among Seven & I Holdings’ main competitors.
They have not, however, attained the same level, scale, or worldwide reach as the 7-Eleven empire.
Masatoshi Ito’s commercial ability would not have been realized if he had not been friends with the late management consultant Peter Drucker.
Ito was characterized by Drucker as one of the world’s best entrepreneurs and business creators.
Masatoshi Ito spoke with The Journal of Japanese Commerce and Industry in 1988, revealing that he visited the United States in 1960.
He stated he was taken aback by how wealthy everyone appeared, especially because Japan was still recovering from World War II’s devastation.
“I became particularly conscious of the sheer size of America’s consumer society and the distribution techniques that made it all possible,” he said.
“It then occurred to me that people in different cultures still have basically the same desires, assuming that they are at the same stage of development.”
“[And] I thought that Japan’s distribution system would become more like America’s as the Japanese consumer society grew bigger.”
“Ever since, I have visited America every year without fail, learning as much as I possibly could about distribution,” Ito continued.
“There were even years when I made several trips to America. These business trips reinforced my belief that Japan and America are moving in the same general direction.”
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The chain’s origins
The enterprise that is today known as 7-Eleven began modestly.
Jefferson Green, often known as “Uncle Johnny,” was an employee of Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas, in 1927 when he began selling milk, bread, and eggs from the ice house.
He saw a need to carry the things for consumers who need them, and he began selling them on Weekends and evenings when grocery stores closed early.
Uncle Johnny’s plan has potential, according to Joe C. Thompson Jr., a co-founder of The Southland Company.
They began selling identical items at other ice-dock locations, laying the groundwork for convenience commerce.
Because of their increased hours of operation, the firm was called 7-Eleven, which was open from 7am to 11pm
7-Eleven and Japanese Culture
Despite its American roots, Masatoshi Ito has made 7-Eleven associated with Japanese convenience store culture.
Masatoshi Ito is the post-World War II entrepreneur most responsible for the chain’s success in selling anything from yogurt to ready-made meals and pharmaceuticals.
He was able to accomplish so through a series of acquisitions and expansions between the 1970s and the 1990s.
Masatoshi Ito began his career in 1958, according to NHK, the Japanese national broadcaster.
He rose to the presidency of his family’s tiny clothing shop in Tokyo.
Ito later marketed food and household items.
He eventually renamed the company Ito Yokado and ran it like an American supermarket.
After a contract established between Ito Yokado and 7-Eleven owner, the Southland Company, the first 7-Eleven opened in Tokyo, Japan, in 1974.
In March 1991, Masatoshi Ito’s business purchased a majority share in Southland.
According to NHK, Ito resigned as president of Ito Yokado to accept responsibility for suspected payoffs to racketeers of corporate leaders.
Seven & I Holdings was formed in 2005 as the holding company for 7-Eleven Japan and Ito Yokado.
Ito served as the company’s honorary chairman until his death.
Masatoshi Ito was quoted in an interview in 1988 as commenting about 7-Eleven’s success:
“I am frequently asked if I succeeded because of hard work or because I was just lucky. The answer is some of both.”
Image source: Bloomberg