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NEW YORK -- Start spreading the news -- 7-Eleven can throw one heck of a party.
The Dallas-based convenience store operator last night hosted an Education is Freedom concert at New York's Radio City Music Hall. The sold out affair, hosted by Rosie Perez, featured musical artists including Chicago, Boyz II Men, the Riverdance troupe and international recording artists from England, Japan, Chile and Italy. The gala was part of 7-Eleven's ongoing 75th anniversary celebration. The concert also featured videotaped messages from Nelson Mandela and Elton John.
Jim Keyes, 7-Eleven's president and CEO, used the venue to thank all of 7-Eleven's suppliers and partners throughout the company 75 years and presented its first-ever Retailer Initiative award to St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., parent of the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light beers.
"7-Eleven is one of our most valued partners," said Patrick Stokes, who took the reins at Anheuser-Busch as president and CEO July 1. "Our top priority is to work with our partners to build the future, not the past."
Keyes was also honored by the Network of Executive Women for his work in advancing the careers of women in the convenience store and petroleum marketing industry.
Earlier Thursday, the c-store chain presented 7-Eleven University at Madison Square Garden before several thousand franchisees, licensees and suppliers, during which a string of company vice presidents and category directors emphasized that 7-Eleven sees its suppliers not as vendors, but as partners. The company also underscored efforts to work more closely with its franchisees and licensees by investing heavily in item level inventory that can be customized to particular locations.
Fundamentally, 7-Eleven, said Keyes, will continue to lead the industry in new products, while winnowing out slow-moving items. "I've learned to be open to change because our customers are constantly changing and so must we."
In other 7-Eleven news, the company yesterday signed a 40-month supply agreement with McLane Co. Inc., a subsidiary of Bentonville-, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., valued at nearly $2 billion per year.
McLane will supply substantially all grocery, frozen food, cigarettes, health and beauty products, general merchandise, and other products to 7-Eleven's network of 5,300 stores. The contract becomes effective Sept. 21 and will run until January 2006, 7-Eleven said.
ABOVE: Anheuser-Busch President and CEO Patrick Stokes, (left) with Joseph Vonder Haar, of Anheuser-Bush, and Mike Gade, senior vice president of merchandising for 7-Eleven.