7-Eleven's Urban Growth

Retailer expanding in Detroit; bringing clean stores, grocery, private-label to cities

DETROIT -- 7-Eleven Inc. plans to open six Metro Detroit stores in the next month as part of a plan to expand in urban areas where it already has a strong presence, said a report in The Detroit News.

The new stores, in Southfield, Farmington, Livonia, Warren and Eastpointe, further solidify the region as one of 7-Eleven's most successful markets, the report said. Metro Detroit has more than 200 locations and is the highest-selling market for its popular Slurpee frozen beverage.

"We already have a significant presence here," 7-Eleven spokesperson Margaret [image-nocss] Chabris told the newspaper. "We've built a following and a big fan base."

The convenience store chain plans expansion to add 280 locations around the nation this year, the report added.

It succeeds in working-class areas like Metro Detroit, according to Ken Dalto, a retail analyst, because it is more accessible than many grocery stores and cleaner and safer than nearby party stores. "The key is being in the blue-collar areas of town," Dalto told the paper. "Those areas are underserved by big chains. But the fact of life is that poor people have to live, as well, and need the necessities of life. Somebody has to serve that market."

The store's convenient locations at hundreds of corners around the city make it an easy choice for consumers who have limited transportation and "can't get around," Dalto said. For families with only one car, when the father goes to work, the mother is stuck at home taking care of the kids, he explained. She can't go across the city to find a grocery store, but she can walk down the street to 7-Eleven.

The store also has many locations near high schools, so it has become a popular hangout for students, he said.

"It's all comes down to the location of the stores," Chabris added. "By adding more stores, 7-Eleven continues to be more accessible. It's all about being convenient for the customer."

Many of these customers forgo the nearby party stores because 7-Eleven is cleaner and safer, Dalto said.

"It's very important to us not only to be convenient, but also to provide a clean and friendly shopping environment," Chabris said.

7-Eleven also sells a variety of low-priced products for customers who are concerned with value, the report said. The store's 300 or so generic brand products, known as 7-Select, are 10% to 20% less expensive, according to the Detroit News.

"We give customers a choice," Chabris said. "If they're loyal to a brand, that's fine. But we find in these recessionary times, they want value."