7-Eleven’s No. 1 Priority

Urban push continues in the Big Apple

NEW YORK CITY -- Within five years, 7-Eleven could be nearly as ubiquitous in Manhattan as Starbucks is today. The company plans to open at least 30 new stores a year, according to an American Public Media report.

After mostly abandoning the city in the early 1980s, the convenience store chain is standing by its 2-year-old promise to reclaim it.

“The industry was different then. It was more about cigarettes and beer,” Ken Barnes, the company’s regional development director, told APM.

Lots of places sold those commodities then, but now, 7-Eleven wants to grow, and fast, and New York is 7-Eleven's No. 1 priority. 7-Eleven currently owns a dozen or so stores in the city. In January 2011, when it first announced its push toward more urban sites, it said it can foresee as many as 100 stores in the city by 2016.

Last month, Neil Ghezzar surveyed his nearly-finished franchise on the Upper West Side.

“Oh, it’s fantastic,” he told APM, as construction crews put finishing touches on the Slurpee machines and aisles.

Ghezzar quit a career in banking when he read that 7-Eleven had big plans for New York

“Just to be my own boss finally is kind of exciting,” Ghezzar said.

Today’s 7-Elevens compete more on food than commodities like cigarettes. Some have fruit slices and Kosher goods. There are also the usual chicken wings, burritos and Slurpees that the company hopes will appeal to New Yorkers on the move.

And, there’s another reason 7-Eleven believes it can take Manhattan. Because of the downturn, there are more open storefronts.

“There are properties that are available that five years ago, I wouldn’t be able to touch,” Barnes said.

That’s bad news for shop owners like Kyung Chan Yu.

“I don’t know why they do that to me,” he said in the corner deli in Chelsea he’s owned for years.

Since 7-Eleven opened next door recently, his sales are down 25%, he told APM.

“Time by time, little by little, they’re taking my customers,” he said.

 And, 7-Eleven has another competitive advantage: It’s exempt from Mayor Bloomberg’s big soda ban.

Read more about 7-Eleven’s national growth strategy in the January issue of CSP Magazine.