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    7-Eleven Encourages Innovation

    National convenience retailer calls for "the next big thing" from suppliers, vendors and manufacturers during two-day event.

    DALLAS -- 7-Eleven, Inc. will host an invitation-only Innovation event open to suppliers, vendors and manufacturers that are encouraged to apply, participate and dazzle judges with unique, marketable concepts.

    During the event, which will be held in Dallas on June 10 and 11, finalists will have 20 minutes to showcase their ideas for consideration by the company's senior merchandising team.

    "When we last held this event in 2002, we received some 400 applications and selected 15 companies for face-to-face reviews," Kevin Elliott, 7-Eleven senior vice president of merchandising and logistics, said in a released statement. "We want to expand the program to two days and bring more products, services and capabilities that meet the ever-changing needs of our convenience-oriented customers."

    7-Eleven, which operates and franchises more than 5,600 7-Eleven stores in the United States, receives thousands of product pitches each year; and while the company introduces at least 25 new products to its stores each week, competition is tough.

    "We designated Innovation Day to provide local and national vendors, whether they've worked with us in the past, currently or never before, the opportunity to present their new, innovative ideas to our merchandising executives," Elliot said in the statement. "We want to keep our product pipeline full so we're looking for companies that will come with great, new ideas, unique concepts, manufacturing capabilities and resources to meet the demand of our more than six-million customers a day."

    At a small retail outlet like 7-Eleven, shelf space is measured in inches, which forces product designers to continually develop innovative ideas tailored to the convenience shopper. To this end, 7-Eleven has long employed its "first, best, only" strategy and customer focus as benchmarks to assess new product offerings, explained Elliott.

    "First and foremost, everything is based on meeting what the customer will want or need. After that, we want 7-Eleven to be first to market, offer the best quality and value and, if possible, to have product exclusivity. That's a tall order and a day-in, day-out challenge. We're looking for products people need that will exceed customer expectations for quality and value."

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