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Just How Convenient Are Convenience Stores?

7-Eleven wants to remain as relevant as it was 90 years ago.
February 21, 2017

​DALLAS – Amazon.com, Walmart.com, drone delivery, mobile ordering—if consumers buy and have most anything delivered to their home or office, how will the traditional convenience store offer keep pace?

“The landscape is changing so fast. Yes, there’s Amazon and there’s GrubHub...It’s all about immediate consumption,” Joe DePinto, CEO of 7-Eleven, told the Dallas News. “We have to be prepared and ready in ways that our customers want. And the last four or five years, we’ve had our heads down, grinding it out. And we’re doing a lot of things right.”

In an interview with the Dallas News, DePinto explained that 7-Eleven wants to remain as relevant as it was 90 years ago when it got its start in Dallas.

“As long as we don’t all become hermits, there will always be a need to get out, get gas and grab something to go,” Craig Rosenblum, senior director at food retail consultancy Willard Bishop, told the news source.

For an industry that has roughly doubled in size over the last 30 years and ended last year with 154,535 stores in the United States, 7-Eleven “is still the face of the industry,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. In terms of customers, millennials who have grown up with the brand now make up more than 50% of 7-Eleven’s customers.

“This generation (millennials) grew up with a different convenience store,” Lenard told the news source. “Young people see the convenience store as a place where they can pick up a good sandwich. Older generations think of the bathroom key attached to an old hubcap or a block of wood. That’s not as appealing.”

But don’t forget about the biggest c-store demographic: men. The news source writes that men ages 18-34 are 7-Eleven’s biggest customer segment, but more young women are discovering the chain’s fresh-food offer. It’s proprietary Go!Smart brand features small portions of turkey chili and cornbread, kale and quinoa salads, hummus, nut and fruit snacks. DePinto noted that coconut and flavored teas and sodas are hard to keep in stock.

7-Eleven is also partnering with premium food suppliers to differentiate its product mix, commented Sean Thompson, the retailer’s vice president over private brands. 7-Eleven’s private-label sales increased 19% in 2014 and 30% in both 2015 and 2016.

Technology is a large part of 7-Eleven’s growth strategy, writes the news source, adding that the chain is testing self-checkout at its new corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas. In 2015, 7-Eleven partnered with Postmates and now has 500 items on the delivery service’s app in 27 markets.

7-Eleven is also concentrating on major U.S. markets with dense populations, which makes stores more convenient for delivery services (like Postmates) to fulfill customer orders.