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Trial Holdings, a discount supermarket chain based in Japan, recently went public in the country’s largest IPO of the year, raising $258 million. The founder, Hisao Nagata, saw his net worth jump to $1.2 billion as the company’s shares rose by 41% since their debut. With over 300 supermarkets across Japan, Trial Holdings offers a variety of low-priced goods, including food, clothing, and household items, through different retail formats such as Trial Supercenters and Trial Go convenience stores.

Nagata has been a pioneer in incorporating AI technology into his retail operations, using it to analyze customer shopping patterns and manage inventory. His company, Trial Holdings, has invested in Retail AI, a subsidiary that focuses on developing IoT software and devices, including AI cameras and smart shopping carts with integrated card scanners. Nearly two-thirds of Trial’s supermarkets have been transformed into tech-embedded “Smart Stores,” reflecting Nagata’s belief in the importance of AI in the retail industry.

In a rare interview in 2019, Nagata emphasized the necessity of utilizing AI in retail, stating that it is not an option to ignore its potential impact. Continuing to innovate with new technologies, Trial Holdings recently announced a partnership with NEC Corp to pilot an AI-powered facial recognition system at checkout counters, enabling customers to link payment details with a digital image of their face. The company is also exploring the integration of generative AI into a staff communication platform at its stores.

Nagata’s background in retail dates back to 1974 when his father opened a thrift store in Fukuoka, which Nagata later took over and expanded into the Trial Company in 1984. With the launch of Trial Holdings in 1992, Nagata introduced the first Trial discount store and later debuted Japan’s first unmanned 24-hour supermarket, Trial Quick, in 2018. Despite his success, Nagata remains focused on serving customers and business values, as reflected in his writings on retail AI and digitization.

Along with Nagata, other entrepreneurs in Japan have seen significant wealth growth due to the country’s booming stock market. Takaya Awata, founder of Toridoll Holdings, a popular udon noodle restaurant chain, and Shunsaku Sagami, founder of M&A Research Institute Holdings, are among the new billionaires in Japan. Nagata’s expansion into real estate, restaurants, and resorts further highlights his diversified business ventures beyond the supermarket industry, showcasing his entrepreneurial spirit and success in various sectors.

In conclusion, the success of Trial Holdings’ IPO and Nagata’s emergence as a billionaire underscore the growing opportunities in the Japanese retail market and the impact of technology on the industry. Nagata’s pioneering use of AI and commitment to customer-focused business values have positioned Trial Holdings for future growth and innovation in the competitive retail landscape. As Japan’s economy continues to evolve, entrepreneurs like Nagata and his counterparts are driving innovation and creating wealth through diverse business ventures and strategic partnerships.

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