Toshifumi Suzuki, chief executive officer of department store to mail order retailer Seven & I Holdings Co, is looking to create an online retail empire by turning more than 50,000 bricks and mortar stores in Japan into portals.

Reuters citing Suzuki reported that he is planning to establish an online delivery system in which goods ordered online from Seven & I's department stores and supermarkets will be delivered to and picked up from the thousands of 7-Eleven stores spread across Japan.

"I've been talking for a while inside the company about integrating the real (bricks and mortar) side with the Internet, but nobody was taking it seriously," Reuters quoted Suzuki as saying.

In order to realise the dream, Suzuki took inspiration from the US. He sent about 50 heads of the group's companies on a mission to the US. They were asked to visit retailers like Macy's Inc, shopping malls and Internet companies, and to figure out how to apply their strategy in Japan.

"In the US they observed, they listened and they realised that this was possible, and now they're all motivated," Suzuki said.

The company is in talks with major e-commerce firms on point-of-pickup arrangements for Japan, according to Suzuki. It received a lot of approaches from people who want to partner with the proposed business, he said.

Better Prospects of Online Growth

Suzuki is well known for his willingness towards innovations and making big plays. He brought the 7-Eleven franchise to Japan.

In 1991, his company acquired a majority stake in its US mentor and original 7-Eleven Inc owner Southland Corp., which sought bankruptcy protection.

At present, 7-Eleven's stores in Japan do not provide the quality e-commerce services available at their US counterparts. In the US, 7-Eleven has facilities such as dedicated lockers for picking up merchandise ordered online from Amazon.

After the acquisition, the Japanese company turned its US unit around, using sophisticated data systems for inventory management and merchandise optimisation at individual stores.

Suzuki's new move is expected to boost its sales in Japan, as more and more people migrate to the internet to make purchases.