Japanese Convenience Chain Opens First Store Staffed By Avatars
By Mikelle Leow, 02 Dec 2022
The land of manga and anime has outdone itself—it’s hired cartoon characters to run a mini-mart in the real world. Lawson, a leading convenience store chain in Japan, has opened its first location that is staffed by on-screen avatars. On paper, it sounds like a dystopian dream that’s fueled by the construction of the metaverse, but we promise there are some favorable ideas behind it.
The first Green Lawson opened on November 28 in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward. Unlike the hands-off, just-walk-out retail concepts in other parts of the world, like Amazon Go in the US, Green Lawson’s helpful animated staffers are remotely controlled by humans. The upside of this is that disabled people can work here, since they’ll be tending to patrons remotely behind a computer screen. It’s the company’s unique spin on creating an inclusive workforce.
Human staffers will assume the appearances of Aoi or Sorato, male and female characters developed by Lawson in conjunction with Japanese avatar creator Avita.
Lawson is convinced that the human touch is still essential to address certain questions and perform tasks like handling the sales of tickets, which can’t be done self-service yet.
Green Lawson seems to be the chain’s ideal store of the future. As its name implies, the location is inspired by a eco-conscious living. Japan Times reports that plastic bags won’t be given out here, and the company intends to roll out a program to pick up unwanted paper bags from shoppers’ homes for use as the branch’s to-go carriers.
The location will stock more frozen meal boxes, which tend to have a longer shelf life than refrigerated foods or lunches stored at room temperature, to limit food wastage. A made-to-order meal service is also in the works so customers will only consume the ingredients they have ordered.
The chain’s president Sadanobu Takemasu says Green Lawson is one of the company’s ways to achieve carbon neutrality across its network.
Following the launch of this branch, the company plans to open about 100 Green Lawsons in the country by 2025.
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