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DALLAS -- In an effort to find some hot new merchandise for 2002, 7-Eleven Inc. said it would host its first quarterly Product Innovation Day on Jan. 17.The nation's leading convenience retailer is inviting vendors to submit profiles about their company and products to be included in this forum. Finalists will be invited to showcase their products to the company's senior merchandising team for potential inclusion in close to 5,800 participating 7-Eleven stores."We are designating a day once a quarter to provide new vendors an opportunity to meet with our top merchandising executives," said Jeff Hamill, vice president of merchandising for 7-Eleven, Inc., who estimates the company receives more than 3,000 new product pitches each year. "We're looking for companies that will come with manufacturing capabilities and resources to meet the demand of a six million-a-day customer base."According to Hamill, 7-Eleven offers participating manufacturers a unique opportunity -- an ability to introduce a product instantly to millions of consumers. "Our one-day ordering system and sophisticated distribution network can handle logistics on the front-end while our systems technology enables us to track sales data by market to provide immediate feedback," Hamill said. With retail shelf-space at a premium, competition is fierce among manufacturers for much-coveted facings. In the small space of a convenience store, that's especially so where product profitability is literally measured by the square inch. 7-Eleven uses its "first, best, only" strategy as the benchmark to measure new product offerings. "If possible, we want 7-Eleven to be first to market, offer the best quality and value, and have product exclusivity," Hamill said. "That's a tall order and a day-in, day-out challenge. We're looking for quality for our customers and products that will become successful."