Lawson Inc. opened Monday its first futuristic convenience store in Tokyo staffed by "avatars" remotely controlled by employees, making it possible for even those with mobility issues to enter the workforce.
The chain's first "Green Lawson," located in Tokyo's Toshima Ward, promotes an environmentally friendly lifestyle by eliminating the sale of plastic bags, and discontinuing the provision of disposable forks and straws to customers starting Jan. 10.
With the exception of paying bills, remotely controlled avatars will generally tend to customers via monitors installed near self-checkout counters and in product aisles.
Employees will be represented by either Aoi or Sorato, the names of the female and male anime-style avatars, respectively, developed in collaboration with Japanese avatar development company Avita Inc.
To reduce food waste, the Green Lawson store will stock more frozen boxed lunches, which have a longer shelf life than products stored at room temperature or refrigerated.
The company is also developing a made-to-order food preparation service and plans to collect unneeded paper bags from customers' homes to reuse them as shopping bags.
Lawson President Sadanobu Takemasu said the company aims to open 100 such stores by 2025.
"We hope to promote carbon neutrality across the entire company" by putting into practice measures that have proven successful at other Lawson stores, he said.