Lawson Inc, Japan's number two convenience store retailer, is to use the opening of up to 50 outlets in Hawaii as a springboard to expand onto the US mainland.

The retailer plans to open its first two stores in Hawaii in late June or early July and has longer-term aims for Hawaii and for the US. "We eventually aim to open between 30 and 50 outlets in Hawaii," a spokesperson said, without providing a timetable for when more stores could be opened.

The first two outlets in Honolulu will be tenants of the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel and the Moana Surfrider Westin Resort & Spa, and will be directly managed by a local Lawson subsidiary formed in January.

The company is aiming to gather knowledge of local consumers for a future launch onto the US mainland. The Hawaii outlets will acquaint US tourists with the chain.

The spokesperson said the US market was a priority for Lawson CEO Takeshi Niinami.

"Niinami views the US market as second only to the Asian market in Lawson's strategy," the spokesperson said. 

However, the spokesperson declined to reveal details on when and where Lawson's first mainland US outlets will be opened. However, he confirmed the company will open a data centre in Silicon Valley to analyse data garnered from Ponta, a customer loyalty card introduced in Japan in 2010, which help assess what prospects it has in the US.

Japan's retailers are looking at overseas expansion amid a falling and ageing domestic population. The Japanese population shrank by 259,000 people to under 128m people in the year to 1 October, according to the ministry of internal affairs and communications. Japan's three major convenience store operators - Seven & I Holdings, Lawson and FamilyMart - say there is leeway for only 5,000 new c-stores in Japan, so overseas expansion is needed.