Yaohan (Japanese: ヤオハン or 八百半; Chinese: 八佰伴) was a Japanese retail group. The company was founded after the Second World War in 1950 by Kazuo Wada (和田一夫). Initially a single shop, it later expanded into a major supermarket chain with most retail outlets located in Shizuoka prefecture, south of Tokyo. It was listed on Tokyo Stock Exchange. The store was far more established and notable outside Japan, such that by the time it opened its first store in the Tokyo metropolitan area, the company was already in a state of decline due to accumulated debts from over-expansion.
During the 1990s, the Yaohan group expanded dramatically outside Japan, especially into Hong Kong (since 1984), the People's Republic of China (since 1995) and the USA. At its peak, it had 450 outlets in 16 countries, including 9 in Hong Kong, as well in São Paulo, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Honolulu, London, and San Jose, California. Yaohan's first American location, at Fresno, Calif., was opened in 1979.
The first Yaohan store was opened in The Mall, Kuala Lumpur in 1987. It was later followed by Plaza OUG at Taman OUG in Jalan Klang Lama, and KOMTAR, Penang. Later it opened in Terminal 1, Seremban in 1996 and Sunway Pyramid, Subang Jaya in Sept 1997. All former stores were replaced by Aktif Lifestyle Corporation Bhd. and later Parkson.
Its first store to open in Singapore in 1974 at Plaza Singapura revolutionised the grocery shopping experience in Singapore, and it quickly became a household name. Other stores were also opened in Thomson Plaza (1979), Bukit Timah (1982), Jurong (1983), and Parkway Parade (1983). The Jurong store was closed in 1989, and a new store planned at the IMM Shopping Mall was due to open in 1990. The sixth store was supposed to open in Kovan Shopping Centre in 1993. Also in operation in Singapore since 1985 was the Yaohan Best chain, specializing in electronics, which first opened in Yaohan's store space.
When the company faced financial difficulties, it was split into two companies, one in Japan and with the overseas part headquartered in Hong Kong, in a bid to survive. The group was traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as Yaohan International Company Limited until 11 August 1998. Through a combination of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the stagnation of the Japanese retail market, however, the group declared bankruptcy with 161 billion yen of debts. It was the biggest postwar failure in Japan's retail sector at the time. The super-market chain asked for protection from creditors under Japan's Corporate Rehabilitation Law on 18 September 1997. Many outlets were closed.
In March 2000, Yaohan in Japan was bought by ÆON Group and changed its name to Maxvalu Tokai; most of the stores in Hong Kong were also over taken by ÆON and became JUSCO. Other stores in the U.S. were bought by Mitsuwa, Maruwa, and Marukai, the latter two based in Los Angeles. Stores in Canada were bought by The President Group, a Taiwanese company.
A former Yaohan department store in Macau is operating under the trading name New Yaohan (新八佰伴), operated by Yaohan International Company Limited in Hong Kong which is locally owned and no longer has a connection with the Wada family. Yaohan Best has been renamed as Best Denki.