Top Japanese supermarket and convenience store operator Ito Yokado has teamed up with Japan's largest general trading company Mitsui & Co in a deal covering overseas procurement, new product development and distribution. Ito Yokado operates more than 8,000 7-Eleven convenience stores and more than 400 other supermarkets and discount stores in Japan. A spokesman said the partnership would enable the retailer to take advantage of Mitsui's global procurement network: "The lifecycle of our retail products is becoming extremely short, so it has become increasingly important for us to find the best sources for products from all over the world very quickly." Conversely, teaming up with Ito Yokado would give a significant boost to Mitsui. "We see this as a win-win situation for both sides," said a spokesman for Mitsui, which trades in products, from food and textiles to petrol. "By helping Ito Yokado achieve its goals of increasing sales and cutting costs, we'll be able to increase the volume of our business." It is understood Mitsui will not take an equity stake in Ito Yokado. Savage prices wars, a lack of consumer confidence and aggressive competition from new entrants to the market have driven a series of leading Japanese grocery retailers into the red in recent weeks. Group operating profit at Ito Yokado fell 7% for the year to February 28, while supermarket operator Mycal chalked up net losses in excess of $700m over the same period. Jusco president Motooya Okada said his company was being forced into a situation where it "must continue discounting" at the expense of margins to retain customers who have tightened their purse strings. {{NEWS }}