Japanese conglomerate Seven & I, which operates more than 33,000 retail outlets across the world, has unveiled a strategy to help it counter the economic downturn in 2009.

According to reports Seven & I, which operates Seven-Eleven convenience stores and Ito-Yokado superstores in Japan, will develop its discount strategy and seek niche markets that it can dominate this year.

The move reflects a global trend by supermarkets such as Tesco, Delhaize and Coles, which have all strengthened their discount strategies and follows the success of discount grocers such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto.

Seven & I chairman Toshifumi Suzuki said continuing with tactics employed during past periods of growth will not work in the present environment.

The retailer will focus on its discount outlet format that launched in 2008, which has been profitable in its first year. Suzuki said the format has proved popular with price-sensitive customers.

Seven & I, which also counts restaurants, financial services and IT services among its operations, wants to enter niche markets as Suzuki said the supermarket industry is still “generally tough”.

The retailer will develop its private-label food brand, Seven Premium, and increase the range from 800 products to more than 1,300 this year.

It expects group-wide sales of its private-label brands will be ¥320 billion (£2.3 billion) for the 2009 financial year, up from ¥180 billion (£1.3 billion) in 2008.