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By Linda Lisanti
QUEENS VILLAGE, N.Y. -- The 7-Eleven store here at 219-17 Hillside Ave. was packed with people Friday as 7-Eleven celebrated a milestone in its long franchising history—the opening of the 100th store to join the chain through its Business Conversion Program.
7-Eleven's Business Conversion Program (BCP) -- which began as a pilot program in California in mid-2005 and was rolled out in the second half of 2006—presents qualified independent operators of gas stations, c-stores, liquor, dollar and small grocery stores with the opportunity to convert their existing businesses to the 7-Eleven brand.
Friday’s grand-opening festivities kicked off at 10 a.m. with on-site music broadcast by hip hop radio station Hot 97 FM, along with family entertainment including face painting and balloon making, and sampling of items from 7-Eleven's Fresh Foods Program.
The new Queens Village BCP store, formerly known as J.D. Foods, has been owned by licensed pharmacist Piyush "Peter" Patel, along with his brother and uncle, since 2003. Patel said in an interview with CSNews Online at Friday’s event that he started looking for a well-known convenience brand to partner with at the beginning of last year, when the economy started to worsen. He chose 7-Eleven for its proven business model.
"7-Eleven has been successful for such a long time, and everyone knows the 7-Eleven name," Patel said. "Before, we were getting the same customers, but we were having a hard time attracting new clientele. Now, we’ve kept our same customers and added many more new ones. We see moms and dads coming in with their kids for Slurpees."
Since officially re-launching the 3,800-square-foot location as a 7-Eleven store this New Year’s Eve, Patel said he’s already experiencing 30 to 35 percent higher sales volume. The biggest increases are coming from coffee and Slurpees. He noted students from nearby Martin Van Buren High School can’t get enough the frosty beverages.
"We offered frozen beverages before, but nothing like what we have now with 7-Eleven and Slurpee," Patel said. "The kids love it. Families love it. We love it." Customers are "ecstatic" with the transformation and the greater product variety, he added.
Now that 7-Eleven has reached 100 BCP stores, the convenience store chain said it won’t be long until that number doubles. In fact, the retailer expects to close out 2009 with a total of 200 stores opened under the Business Conversion Program, Jeffrey Schenck, senior vice president of national franchise and real estate, told CSNews Online.
"We plan to open 200 new stores by the end of this year, and hope half of them are through this program," he said, acknowledging this is the most aggressive push 7-Eleven has made around BCP since fully launching the new franchise model.
For operators who choose to convert their locations, Schenck said they get all of the same advantages a traditional 7-Eleven franchisee does, including the strong recognition of the 7-Eleven trademark, 7-Eleven’s branded products and daily delivery of fresh foods. The difference with a BCP is that the franchisee controls the land and building, compared to the traditional franchise agreement whereby 7-Eleven controls the land and building.
For 7-Eleven, the Business Conversion Program gives the company a way to grow with a much lower capital investment required, Schenck explained. 7-Eleven’s average investment in a BCP is between $250,000 and $300,000 for the remodel, which covers signage, imaging, equipment and 7-Eleven’s retail technology solution.
Through BCP, the retailer is also able to grow the 7-Eleven brand and build upon its market share without having to add incremental stores to its markets; the stores being converted are already there, as Schenck pointed out. Markets where the c-store chain is focusing its BCP efforts are high-density areas including:
-- New York Metro
-- Northern New Jersey
-- Washington D.C. Metro
-- Central Florida
-- Dallas/Fort Worth
-- Los Angeles/San Diego
Schenck told CSNews Online the Dallas-based company intends to keep aggressively expanding the Business Conversion Program, and believes the current recession will help. "We think especially with the weakness of the economy, this could be an attractive solution for many independent operators," he said.
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