7-Elevens could be destined to undergo a konbinification
When someone in the U.S. mentions the name 7-Eleven, Slurpees and rollers stocked with taquitos come to mind. However in Japan, the home of the chain’s parent company, 7-Eleven has long offered a higher-end customer experience — one that might be coming to the U.S., thanks in part to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Japanese konbini (a term used to describe the country’s high-end, service-oriented convenience store) plays a more comprehensive role in daily life than the U.S. convenience store, a recent article on Medium by journalist Adam Chandler explains. There, going beyond traditional c-store fare, customers can manage pharmacy needs and buy clothing basics, use financial services and Wi-Fi and even book train tickets.
Mr. Chandler points to stateside changes, like the rollout of an enhanced inventory monitoring system to improve stock position, an increased footprint, the implementation of Amazon Lockers, in-store bill payment solutions and app-based delivery, as the slow but sure start of U.S. 7-Elevens transforming into konbinis. Products also play a role in the chain becoming more konbini-like with the pandemic-driven introduction of bake-at-home versions of familiar offerings alongside ongoing rollouts of healthier food choices.
7-Eleven has been trying to figure out how to better meet the needs of a changing U.S. customer base for some time. In 2019, the chain launched its first 7-Eleven Evolution store concept, a location meant to be a testing ground for new innovations. Early in 2020, it announced that it would be expanding the concept to two other cities.
By the end of 2020, the Evolution store count had increased to five nationwide, according to CSP Daily News. 7-Eleven expects to open more Evolution stores in 2021.
Whether the slowly-growing “evolved” concept will eventually become the dominant one or remain a side concept, 7-Eleven will have plenty of potential locations in which to place them. The company just completed an acquisition of Speedway which, when completed, will give the convenience store brand an additional 3,900 stores and gas stations spread out over 35 U.S. states.
In 2018, 7-Eleven acquired 1,030 stores, bumping the chain’s store count in the U.S. and Canada up to 9,700.
- 7-Eleven Wants Americans to Love It as Much as the Japanese Do – Medium
- 7-Eleven buying 3,900 Speedway stores in $21 billion deal – Supermarket News
- What will 7-Eleven do with all its new stores? – RetailWire
- 7-Eleven’s new store concept is an Evolution in convenience – RetailWire
- A Peek Inside 7-Eleven’s 5th Evolution Store – CSP Daily News
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think the konbini-style, service-oriented, higher-end convenience store is the future for 7-Eleven in the U.S.? What do you think franchisees will do, given their expressed difficulties in profitably adapting to some of the new higher-end demands?