TOKYO, April 5 (Reuters) - Japan's top general retailer Seven & I Holdings projected on Thursday a 7.9 percent rise in annual operating profit for this business year amid expectations of continued revenue growth as shoppers rediscover its convenience stores.
The owner of 7-Eleven, the world's largest convenience store chain, forecast 315 billion yen ($3.82 billion) in operating profit for the year that began in March, slightly higher than the average projection of 308.4 billion yen in a poll of 17 analysts by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Japanese flocked to convenience stores after last year's massive earthquake and tsunami seeking daily supplies and kept coming back to grab new product offerings such as cooking oil, fresh vegetables and rolled sponge cake.
The new selection of products allowed general retailers like Seven & I, Lawson Inc and FamilyMart Co to appeal to a wider range of customers than the young men who typically frequent convenience stores.
For the year to February, Seven & I booked a 20 percent rise in operating profit to 292.06 billion yen, roughly in line with the company's 286 billion yen estimate and the highest level since its establishment as a holding company in 2005. Seven & I posted a 286.8 billion yen profit in its 2006 business year, which was the previous record.
The earnings announcement came after the end of trade on Thursday. Seven & I shares have risen more than 17 percent over the past year, outperforming a close to 1 percent gain in the benchmark Nikkei average. ($1 = 82.4600 Japanese yen) (Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Matt Driskill and Joseph Radford)