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Model 7-Eleven store stacked with energy- and labor-saving tech unveiled

Solar panels are seen embedded in the pavement outside a model 7-Eleven store attached to Seven-Eleven Japan Co.'s headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Dec. 6, 2017. (Mainichi)

Convenience store giant Seven-Eleven Japan Co. unveiled a shop featuring the company's most advanced energy-saving measures yet on Dec. 6, including solar panels embedded in the pavement outside the door.

    The store was scheduled to reopen to regular customers on Dec. 7.

    In total, 58 new technologies from 38 companies both foreign and domestic are being tried out in the model store, attached to Seven-Eleven's headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. If the new facilities prove effective over a six-month trial period, they will be rolled out to the firm's franchises nationwide.

    The French-made solar panels combined with a hydrogen fuel cell system are expected to reduce the store's power grid draw by 28 percent. Meanwhile, other innovations have been installed to reduce employees' workload, such as sliding doors on all fridges and freezers to make restocking easier, and a cash register area design that allows staff to pull out plastic shopping bags without bending down. All told, the changes are expected to reduce time spent on tasks in each store by 5.5 hours per day.

    "Environmental measures are a necessity for us to grow along with the regions (where our stores are located)," said Seven-Eleven President Kazuki Furuya. "If we create an environment where it's easy to work, then employees will serve customers better, and it will lead to more people coming to the store," he added.

    Japan's 24-hour convenience store chains are all moving forward with energy and cost reduction measures. FamilyMart Co. began testing energy-saving equipment at three stores in the Kanto region in August this year, while Lawson Inc. is set to finish installing energy efficient refrigerators in all of its some 3,500 shops by February 2019.

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