Convenience stores are ringing up a mountain of profit on something they don’t even have to keep in stock: bill paying. In fact, so many people now use convenience stores to pay utility bills and some taxes that the volume handled approaches that of Japan’s megabanks. Though the commission on each transaction is small — about the same 50- to 60-yen profit as on an onigiri rice ball — they add up. For example, Lawson Inc. recorded 6.77 bn yen in commissions for fiscal 2004.
The gives an excellent justification for the carriers’ massive investment in FeliCa mobile e-wallets: if just a fraction of this payment activity can be shifted to mobile, carriers could cash in big — Eds.