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7-Eleven’s parent company sees opportunities for fresh foods

7-eleven-logo-500x4007-Eleven Inc.’s parent company Seven & I Holdings Co. Ltd. is giving two thumbs up to the convenience store’s efforts in fresh food.

On July 18, the Japanese company announced that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operations reported the highest operating income in its history, and saw a 3.4% comparable store sales increase during the first quarter of 2019, with fresh food and 7-Select private brand products driving results, reported the Dallas Morning News.

Looking forward, the company intends to continue down this path and lend some of Japan’s strengths to the United States branch.

“The development and improvement of fast food items is important and something which we will be doing going forward,” Tokyo-based Seven & I Holdings wrote in its Q1 report. “We also believe changing public perceptions of 7-Eleven in the United States to be important. In order to change public perception when it comes to buying food products at 7-Eleven, like is common in Japan, we will be strengthening store cleanliness and improving customer service.”

7-Eleven’s recent efforts include the opening of a lab store and experiential testing ground in Dallas. Highlights of the lab store include made-to-order smoothies and aguas frescas, street tacos with handmade tortillas, baked-in-store cookies and croissants, a growler station that pours local craft beers, and both patio and in-store dining areas, as Convenience Store News previously reported.

These solid results continued into the second quarter. Same-store sales at U.S. 7-Eleven stores were up 5.2% in April and 2.8%. Additionally, the 7Rewards loyalty program and introduction of 7-Eleven private label products at the c-stores it acquired from Sunoco in 2018 increased profit margins, according to the company.

Looking ahead, the retailer plans to continue renovating U.S. stores and testing a scan and payment system that enables customers to pay using their smartphones. The latter is part of the company’s personnel-saving efforts and designed to increase profitability.

Seven & I Holdings also reported that 7-Eleven’s U.S. operating income reached $161 million during the quarter, up $31 million from the previous year, allowing the parent company to post profits exceeding its guidance for the three months ending March 2019.

Irving-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


7-Eleven redefines convenience with delivery app

7-Eleven-7NOW-delivery-teaser_37-Eleven Inc. is making it easier than ever for 7NOW delivery smartphone app users to order their favorite products and get it delivered to anywhere they are.

With the latest app update, the convenience store retailer set up thousands of locations called 7NOW Pins that enable customers to receive delivery where it’s convenient for them. This proprietary technology allows customers to order the delivery service to parks, beaches, sports fields, entertainment venues and other public locations that may not have traditional addresses.

“Our mission is to redefine convenience by becoming a customer obsessed, digitally enabled company,” said Gurmeet Singh, 7-Eleven chief digital, information and marketing officer. “7NOW Pins makes convenience more convenient, by keeping customers in the moment, whether at a game, in the park or enjoying the sun on the beach. Our customers asked for it and we are delivering!”

When ordering items through 7NOW Pins, customers can choose from a wide variety of: beverages; fresh and hot foods; beer and wine in participating markets; snacks; cosmetics; home goods; and thousands of other products available for purchase.

7NOW mobile app users also have the ability to view their last order and simply click reorder to add all their favorite items to their cart.

“Sometimes things can get inconvenient away from home. It could be running out of ice and charcoal at a picnic or a hungry Little League team demanding pizza and Slurpee drinks after a big game,” said Raghu Mahadevan, 7-Eleven vice president of delivery. “We continuously challenge ourselves to find even more ways to offer convenience and value to our customers — when and where people need it most. 7NOW makes ordering and getting delivery in about 30 minutes a reality for customers whether they’re at a park, a ballfield, arena, venue, and of course, at home.”

Here’s how it works:

  • To order delivery to a 7NOW Pin, shoppers simply open the app, which will auto locate their current location or show the nearest 7NOW Pin on the app’s interactive map.
  • Each 7NOW Pin corresponds to a public place or space where users can receive the delivery.
  • A courier will pick up the order from the nearest participating store and deliver it to the selected 7NOW Pin location or specified address in 30 minutes or less on most occasions.

7-Eleven introduced delivery in late 2017 when it began testing the app-based service at select stores in Dallas. Today, 7NOW is available in 27 major metropolitan areas across the United States, with more than 200 cities and serving more than 23 million households.

For a complete list of the markets 7NOW delivers to, click here.

The 7NOW delivery app is one of several new services implemented by the 7-Eleven digital team as part of a companywide commitment to give value and delight for every customer experience, in and out of the store, according to the convenience retailer.

The 7NOW and 7-Eleven apps are available from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Based in Irving, 7‑Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Slurpees incoming: 7 Eleven begins delivery in public spaces

UnknownCraving a Slurpee but lacking the motivation to get off a park bench?

No worries.

7-Eleven launched a delivery service in the U.S. this week that will send a Slurpee or almost anything else carried by the chain to public places ranging from parks to beaches.

The company told The Associated Press that more than 2,000 7-Eleven “hot spots” including New York’s Central Park and Venice Beach in Los Angeles are activated. Customers need to download 7-Eleven’s 7NOW app and select “Show 7NOW Pins” to find a hot spot close by.

7-Eleven believes it will eventually be able to deliver to 200,000 hot spot locations, said Gurmeet Singh, the company’s chief digital information and marketing officer.

Dominos launched a similar service last year, delivering pizzas and more to over 200,000 public locations.

7-Eleven had begun delivering to homes last year when it started getting delivery requests to places away from home where getting a bottle of water may be more tricky, Singh said.

“We’ve been on this journey to redefine convenience,” said Singh. “This makes it easy for people to stay in the moment.”

The jury is still out on how successful public delivery will be.

Jon Reily, vice-president and global commerce strategy lead at Publicis Sapient, says he thinks Domino’s pizza delivery hasn’t created much of a buzz.

“It’s a neat idea on paper, sort of Ubering pizza to your location, but I suspect that the logistics of the process is pretty complicated in the real world,” Reily said.

The use of drones, however, might be a game changer, Reily said.

There’s no minimum order required for a delivery from 7-Eleven. The chain charges a flat delivery fee of $3.99. And for orders under $15, customers pay an extra $1.99. For all orders, it promises average wait time of 30 minutes.

7-Eleven is partnering with Postmates for delivery to public areas.


The key to attracting health-conscious shoppers

snackbuyer-teaserForward-thinking convenience store operators are jumping onto the healthier bandwagon.

In early May, c-store industry giant 7-Eleven Inc. announced that it was introducing nearly 100 new better-for-you items from 31 up-and-coming companies into select stores as part of a test. The selection, placed in 125 Los Angeles-area stores, was curated from 7-Eleven’s first “Next Up” emerging brands showcase, which was held at its Store Support Center in Irving, Texas, last fall.

The better-for-you product assortment includes options for power-snackers, restricted diet-followers and anyone looking for ways to incorporate more functional, better-for-you sips and snacks to keep them fueled while on the go, according to 7-Eleven. The items span keto, paleo, vegan, organic, high-protein, low-glycemic, gluten-free, nutrient-dense, plant-based and cold-pressed.

“When our emerging brands team created this unique product assortment in collaboration with our category managers, the goal was to give customers drinks and snacks that they might not expect to find at a 7-Eleven store,” said 7-Eleven vice-president of new business development Chris Harkness. “Customers are demanding healthier options, and we know LA customers are leading the country in health and wellness trends, always willing to try the newest and most innovative products and services.”

Young consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 are particularly interested in the functional aspect of foods, according to research conducted by youth marketing and millennial research firm Y-Pulse.

These consumers want products that not only satisfy their hunger, but also pack a nutritional punch. They say they enjoy eating superfoods such as dried fruits, nuts and seeds that serve specific functional purposes.

Along with wanting their healthier foods to taste good, younger consumers also want healthy eating to be easy, convenient and work around their on-the-go lifestyles. Specifically, the findings of a recent Y-Pulse study showed that:

  • 81% say they shouldn’t have to try too hard to eat healthy;
  • 76% say they are likely to buy raw fruits and vegetables to eat on the go; and
  • 66% say they don’t mind paying extra for a snack if it’s a healthy option.

WHAT IS HEALTHY, REALLY?

Today, “healthy eating” isn’t a set of hard and fast rules, but rather a state of mind — “a continuous, aspirational approach to food with balance, flexibility and practicality,” according to Ellen Rudman, vice president of strategic planning and research for marketing agency Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide.

Fresh, whole and minimally processed are the current cornerstones of better-for-you. However, the definition of what is “healthy” is in constant evolution.

“Having conducted quite a number of focus groups recently on this topic, what we consistently find across geographic markets and demographic groups is that better choices are typically identified with food that is either known to be fresh-made or made-to-order,” said veteran convenience store industry consultant/designer Joe Bona of Bona Design Lab. Consumers equate freshness with quality and being healthier, he added.

While the definition of healthy continues to evolve, the need for convenience and “on the go” is steadfast and, in fact, stronger than ever. “Consumers demand convenience and evaluate every option through a whole new set of food values,” Rudman said.

She wants c-store retailers to consider: Some consumers think it’s inconvenient to be healthy, so how can your convenience stores change that perception?

 


7-Eleven begins test of nearly 100 better-for-you foods & beverages

BFY-snacks-7-Eleven7-Eleven Inc. is launching a new wave of food and beverages in 125 Los Angeles-area stores from an exclusive list of breakout brands.

Nearly 100 new better-for-you items were hand-selected by the global convenience store retailer from 31 up-and-coming companies for the test.

The special product assortment includes options for power-snackers, restricted diet-followers and anyone looking for ways to incorporate more functional, better-for-you sips and snacks to keep them fueled while on-the-go, according to 7-Eleven. Available options span keto, paleo, vegan, organic, high-protein, low-glycemic, gluten-free, nutrient-dense, plant-based and cold-pressed.

“When our emerging brands team created this unique product assortment in collaboration with our category managers, the goal was to give customers drinks and snacks that they might not expect to find at a 7-Eleven store,” said 7-Eleven vice president of new business development Chris Harkness. “Customers are demanding healthier options, and we know LA customers are leading the country in health and wellness trends, always willing to try the newest and most innovative products and services. In the past, 7-Eleven’s LA stores have shown great success with food and beverages on the leading edge of these trends.”

The selection of prospective breakout brands was curated from hundreds hoping to get a foot in the door with the world’s largest convenience retailer. Last fall, 7-Eleven invited companies to showcase their products at its first “Next Up” emerging brands showcase held at its Store Support Center in Irving.

More than 300 up-and-coming brands applied to participate in the retailer’s inaugural “Next Up” event last fall, with 70 companies invited to participate. The “show-and-taste” event provided the selected businesses an opportunity to present products in an expo-like setting and participate in merchandising, logistics and operations workshops with 7-Eleven leaders.

More than 1,000 7-Eleven employees and franchisees sampled their way through the event and voted on their favorites. The merchandising and emerging brands teams then decided to launch the LA test in 2019 based on the success of Next Up.

“We don’t want small and emerging vendors to be intimidated by 7-Eleven’s size,” Harkness said. “7-Eleven is always on the lookout for innovative companies who have a fresh take on a product, a healthier alternative or a unique flavor that might become the next big food trend. We are eager to see how these brands perform on our shelves and look forward to hearing directly from customers about these new items in the assortment.”

Click here for a list of some of the options that can be found on end-aisle displays and inside the open-air cold case.

Based in Irving, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


7-Eleven’s parent company to ban plastic bags

Seven & i Holdings will stop giving customers disposable plastic shopping bags by 2030.

The Japan-based parent company of 7-Eleven Inc. is making the move as part of its plan to reduce plastic waste, according to NHK World Japan.

The disposable plastic bags will be replaced by paper or other plant-based bags. In addition, the retailer plans to reduce its plastic use from the current level by more than half by 2030, and to zero by 2050, by using paper and recycled material for food packaging, the report added.

According to the company’s website, Seven & i Group promotes the reduced use of disposable plastic bags by asking customers whether they need a bag at the register, displaying posters and point-of-purchase signs, and holding events to encourage customers to bring their own shopping bags when shopping at stores.

In addition, its superstore banner Ito-Yokado Co. Ltd. has already discontinued the free distribution of plastic bags on the food floors of all its stores. Its supermarket banner York-Benimaru Co. Ltd. has followed suit at around 90 percent of its stores.

Its convenience store banner, Seven-Eleven Japan Co. Ltd. is working to introduce biomass polyethylene shopping bags.

Tokyo-based Seven & i Holdings is a group companies centering on a wide variety of business operations, including convenience stores, superstores, department stores, supermarkets, specialty stores and food services.

Its subsidiary, Irving-based 7-Eleven Inc., operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 67,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.


7-Eleven takes convenience to a new level

7Eleven_lab5C-store chain 7-Eleven is redefining the convenience store experience with a new concept called a “lab store.”

The company recently opened the new concept in Dallas where shoppers can try and buy the retailer’s latest innovations. The store features a streamlined checkout process that allows customers to pay through their phones, indoor and outdoor seating, and a product assortment that ranges from handmade tortillas to craft beers to organic teas on tap.

Described as a “lab store and an experiential testing ground,” the outpost is the only one of its type in 7-Eleven’s portfolio. (The Dallas News reported that another lab store could open near Dallas later this year, and that additional stores are planned for San Diego and Washington, D.C.) It is located less than two miles from the original Southland Ice House in Oak Cliff where Dallas-based 7-Eleven pioneered the convenience retailing concept more than 90 years ago. No work, yet, on bringing the concept to Canada.

“Convenience retailing is light years away from the days of bread and milk being sold from ice docks in 1927, and the industry is changing at a faster rate than ever before,” said Chris Tanco, 7 Eleven executive VP and COO. “7-Eleven stays at the forefront by pushing the boundaries and being unafraid to try new things. This new lab store will serve as a place to test, learn and iterate new platforms and products to see what really resonates with customers and how we can use those learnings to influence future store designs.”

The lab store is the first 7-Eleven location to incorporate the Laredo Taco Company taqueria, and is Laredo’s first location in Dallas. The brand is known for its handmade tortillas made from scratch in stores every day. 7-Eleven acquired the taqueria along with Stripes convenience stores in South Texas as part of the 1,000-store acquisition from Sunoco in 2018.

Digital initiatives that enhance the shopping experience are woven into the store, including “scan & pay” technology that allows customers to skip the checkout line and pay for their purchases on their smartphones.

Other store features include:

• Indoor and patio restaurant-style seating in the Laredo portion of the store as well as bar-seating across the front windows in the retail space;

• Made-to-order coffee drinks, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and agua frescas that give customers the option to customize their drinks in a full-service beverage format, and such novelty beverages on tap as nitro cold brew, kombucha and organic teas;.

• “The Cellar,” an alcove dedicated to an expanded selection of wines and craft beers, with a nearby growler station that features a rotating selection of local craft beer, cider and ales on tap;

• A cold treats bar with frozen yogurt, ice cream and multiple toppings; and

• Cookies, croissants and more baked-in-store daily.

Many of the new items in 7-Eleven’s lab store are limited-time offerings, the company said.

“A lot has changed in retail and continues to change rapidly, especially the shopping experience,” Tanco said. “This lab store is customer-focused and will explore new ideas that weren’t even on the retail radar a few months ago.”

Based in Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 67,000 stores in 17 countries. In Canada, 7-Eleven has grown by 25 percent since the fall of 2016 and has 650 stores across the country.

With files from Michelle Warren. Originally published at Store Brands. 


7-Eleven’s digital strategy is about expanding customer interactions

As technology advances, improved hardware can make a big difference in retail performance, but equally critical — or potentially even more important — is data and how it is used.7-eleven-logo-500x400

“Disruptions are coming at the c-store industry everywhere you look,” Kimberly Otocki, content marketing specialist for Paytronix, said during a recent webinar presented by the company, titled “How 7-Eleven Is Changing the Game…Again.”

This includes regular convenience stores that are embracing new technology, as well as outside competitors like Amazon Go. Additionally, dollar stores are starting to rival c-stores as they try to claim the convenience factor for themselves.

“Convenience is changing, and that’s why 7-Eleven is reacting the way they are,” Otocki said, pointing to the company’s 7Rewards loyalty program as the centerpiece of its digital strategy.

The primary goal of 7-Eleven’s digital strategy is to expand customer interactions beyond the four walls of the store and the forecourt.

Customer data is the key to customer engagement, used as the foundation for how 7-Eleven communicates with customers, how it gets them to return and how it keeps their loyalty, according to the webinar.

Smartphones and mobile devices offer multiple paths to mobile engagement, including push and pull messages, customer surveys, mobile-responsive emails and geofencing.

Geofencing in particular is a way of ensuring that c-stores message customers at the right time through the right medium, according to Otocki. Based on GPS, retailers can set a certain distance from their store at which their mobile app will notify the customer of reward items they are eligible for or what items are currently being promoted. The messages can be tailored to individual customers based on their existing data.

SMS text messaging is another way to reach and engage customers — and a popular one, as 75 percent of consumers indicate they would like to receive offer messages through this medium. SMS apps are also one of the most frequently used types of smartphone apps. As a result, companies can send personalized messages based on data in a medium they know customers are going to be in.

One platform-specific digital initiative that 7-Eleven has launched is a Facebook chatbot, which customers can message to seek out the nearest store or investigate deals, promotions and rewards point balances.

The digital trend that may be most important in the future, though, is mobile ordering and payment, as well as delivery, Otocki said. 7-Eleven first moved into this area by utilizing Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Cash.

Mobile payments are a win-win scenario, offering customers faster-moving lines and offering retailers more data they can use to improve their customer experience.

Mobile payment can even give older stores a different feel, according to Otocki. “[Customers] see it as quicker and easier,” she said.

On the delivery front, she noted that it isn’t home delivery or nothing; c-stores can set up programs that deliver items to drivers at the fuel pump, connecting in-store purchases to out-of-store customers. Retailers can also designate pickup points for pre-ordered purchases.

7-Eleven is also experimenting with scan-and-go technology, simplifying the checkout process even further.

The key to success isn’t any one type of new technology, according to Paytronix. Retailers will likely succeed if they use data to help them change and stay ahead of the curve.

Paytronix provides loyalty programs and customer engagement solutions to convenience stores, restaurants and retail chains.

Originally published at Convenience Store News.


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