Photo/IllutrationCustomers bowl at a Round One amusement facility in Los Angeles. (Provided by Round One Corp.)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Round One Corp., operator of recreational complexes that combine bowling alleys, karaoke booths and other forms of entertainment, is targeting abandoned stores in the United States as a way to expand.

The company, based in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, is finding it increasingly difficult to open outlets in a shrinking and graying Japan. So it set its sights on vast U.S. properties that have been abandoned amid the rapid growth of online shopping.

A new Round One amusement facility opened in a large commercial complex in the state of Illinois on Nov. 18, the company’s fourth in the United States in fiscal 2017.

The facility, set up in a property vacated by the Macy’s department store chain, has a floor space of about 5,500 square meters.

Although that size is smaller than typical Round One complexes in Japan that measure 10,000 square meters or so, the Illinois facility resembles Japanese outlets in offering bowling alleys, karaoke booths and a game arcade. The pricing system is also about the same as in Japan.

Round One was operating 107 outlets in Japan and 15 in the United States as of the end of March 2017.

The company plans on running 22 U.S. outlets at the end of the current fiscal year in March 2018. Longer term, Round One intends to add at least 10 more outlets every year from fiscal 2018 so that the number of U.S. outlets matches the figure in Japan by around fiscal 2025.

Round One’s U.S. operations have so far remained promising.

“Outlets can be opened under favorable conditions (in vacant store spaces) in the United States,” Round One President Masahiko Sugino said. “We hope to intensively set up new outlets in the country.”

Round One started out as an operator of a game arcade and a roller-skating rink in 1980, and it began setting up bowling alleys in 1982.

For the business year ending in March 2017, the company recorded sales of 87.7 billion yen ($772 million) and posted a net profit of 2.7 billion yen.

Round One first ventured into the United States in August 2010, when it set up shop in Los Angeles.

The company, however, refrained from expanding its U.S. operations because it was suffering from sluggish performances in Japan and putting priority on repaying its debts.

The company has since recovered financially and started opening more facilities in the United States in fiscal 2016.

Round One’s expansion on the other side of the Pacific comes at a time when department stores, furniture shops and similar establishments in the United States are closing down or vacating sizable store spaces of 4,000 to 6,000 square meters. The increasing use of online retailers, such as Inc., is one reason for the decline of the traditional stores.

In Japan, few promising locations are currently available, partly because of the shrinking population and partly because land prices are soaring in urban areas.

The company has opened only one outlet in Japan in fiscal 2017--the Kichijoji store in Musashino, western Tokyo.