(Combines Seven and I and FamilyMart details, adds context on convenience stores)
TOKYO, July 3 (Reuters) - Japan’s Seven and I Holdings Co Ltd, owner of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain, posted a 9.5 percent rise in first-quarter profit which was its highest on record for the traditionally dull March-May period.
Japan’s biggest convenience store operator, buoyed by an expansion of its store network, left its full-year operating profit forecast for the year to February unchanged at a record 340 billion yen ($3.41 billion), in line with forecasts.
Japanese convenience store operators are now reaping the rewards of aggressively opening new outlets in recent years and taking business from supermarkets by expanding their lineup of prepared foods and private-label products.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aggressive monetary and fiscal stimulus policies, and a rallying stock market, have also spurred consumer spending, but the benefits to the retail sector have so far centred on high-end department stores.
Seven and I’s Sogo and Seibu department stores account for only a tiny share of its profit.
FamilyMart Co Ltd, the third-largest convenience store operator, on Thursday also left its operating profit forecast for the year to next February unchanged at 45.1 billion yen, while profit for its first quarter fell 6.9 percent.
Seven and I has been generating annual record profits for two years, but the first-quarter result marked its first record high for that specific period since 2007.
Seven and I’s shares ended flat before the earnings announcement. They have surged nearly 60 percent since mid-November when the Japanese market began rallying, in line with the benchmark Nikkei average’s 62 percent rise. FamilyMart is up a more modest 21 percent over the same period. ($1 = 99.6950 Japanese yen) (Reporting by Ritsuko Shimizu; Writing by Edmund Klamann; Editing by Miral Fahmy)