Sogo & Seibu strike turns spotlight on department store struggles

The strike at Sogo & Seibu comes as the business environment is worsening for department stores in Japan.

Seven & i merged with Millennium Retailing, the predecessor of Sogo & Seibu, in 2006. The company believed the move would improve its overall competitiveness. It reasoned that the brand recognition of department stores would complement the new products developed by its convenience stores.

But the department store industry began to struggle soon after, as specialty shops and online retailers gained popularity. Sogo & Seibu has logged net losses in 10 out of the 17 years since the merger, including four straight years through fiscal 2022.