SAPPORO Magazine – Issue 01-6: The Story of Secoma
Jan 12, 2021
Delivering Peace of Mind to Every Corner of Hokkaido. A Store for Every Need.
Text by Hiroe Morihiro. Translation by Susie Krieble, Kana Koike, and Ari Murata.
Looking out at the world, but rooted in one place
There is a Hokkaido-based convenience store that is affectionately called Secoma by locals. The store is famous for its exclusive house brand that showcases Hokkaido’s rich seascape and landscape, as well as for offering hot bento and small dishes that are cooked in a full-scale, on-site kitchen.
Seicomart was established in Sapporo in 1971, and is said to be one of the oldest surviving convenience store chains in Japan. Currently, there are 1,100 stores across 174 cities, towns, and villages in Hokkaido, including the northernmost islands of Rishiri and Rebun. In fact, 99.8% of Hokkaido’s population has access to one. In 2016, the company officially changed its name to its nickname, Secoma, and has won first place in the convenience store category of the Japanese Customer Satisfaction Index for four consecutive years in a row since then. This is solid evidence of the special place it holds in the hearts of locals, and how it is such an integral part of people’s lives.
“Although Secoma is a community-based company, it has paid attention to international trends since its founding. In 1976, we joined the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), and five years later, we asked a design firm in New York to design the stores. We then started importing wine directly in 1987, and now import high-quality products from over 20 countries to provide to Hokkaido-ites,” proudly states the public relations manager, Taketomo Sasaki.
They have also established a robust internal process in which the production of raw materials, manufacturing, logistics, and retail management are all done in-house, enabling them to stably provide safe, reliable products to households across Hokkaido, without relying on external parties. When the 2018 Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake caused a blackout across Hokkaido, Secoma was able to supply power at its stores through emergency power supply kits, and by making full use of their distribution network, could continue to supply daily goods.
“Around 600,000 people visit a Seicomart each day, so we are always considering how we can continue serving as a lifeline that supports our customers lives at all times. To continue to provide what our customers need, and to always be one step ahead, we are constantly looking at the current and potential functions of the supply chain.”
In addition, taking advantage of the ties with the regions that they have developed through the creation of the store network, Secoma has been actively engaged in working closely with primary and secondary industries.
“We wanted to prepare the products as close as possible to its source so that we can offer the fresh and delicious tastes unique to Hokkaido.”
To implement this idea, the company has been carefully cultivating in-house products for over 20 years. Further, milk products such as “Hokkaido Milk” which is now a signature product of Secoma, has been manufactured at a group factory in the dairy farming town of Toyotomi since 2000. The high-quality milk is widely recognised, and more than 19 million bottles are shipped to stores and supermarkets outside of Hokkaido, exceeding the annual amount sold at Secoma stores.
Making the most of the quality of its dairy, Secoma’s in-house team has also developed its own series of dairy products such as yoghurts, ice creams, and desserts. Three years ago, a limited edition haskap (blue honeysuckle berry) flavoured soft serve ice cream was released, which uses haskap, a specialty of Atsumacho. Along with the name of Atsumacho, it became known nationwide as the taste of summer in Hokkaido.
“By discovering and commercialising great local products, the names of the regions of origin become recognised both inside and outside Hokkaido, leading to regional branding. Through such initiatives, a sustainable relationship between Secoma and the region is fostered.’’
This year, a new Secoma store will open on the first floor of THE KNOT SAPPORO located in the ever-popular Tanukikoji district. The seeds that Secoma have carefully been planting over the years have now bloomed and will introduce travellers to a new charm of Hokkaido.