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NEW YORK -- As 7-Eleven Inc. expands its presence in the New York City borough of Manhattan, it isn't just looking to open new stores, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Company officials have reached out to the Bodega Association of the U.S. and held a meeting with its members earlier this month where they promoted 7-Eleven’s business conversion program that would allow established bodegas to become 7-Eleven-branded stores.
Benefits of the program reportedly include a fully stocked store, regular visits from a business consultant, an inventory tracking system designed to boost sales and reduce spoilage, and a financial model in which corporate and the franchisee split gross profits.
"In the street, people are talking about 7-Eleven," stated Ramon Murphy, president of the Bodega Association of the U.S. "Some people agree, some people not agree. The main thing is, let's educate our members; let's be prepared for competition. If you want to be 7-Eleven, great. You don't want it, I'll help you, too. We want to keep the bodega in New York."
Many of the new Manhattan 7-Eleven stores are corporate owned, but seeking franchisees. However, no one attended an open house on the Upper West Side earlier this month, and no bodega owners have applied for the conversion program, according to the WSJ report. Nine non-bodega business owners have applied since February.
Some of the bodega and small grocery store owners have expressed concern that 7-Eleven's expansion will put them out of business. Sedki Ali, owner of an Eighth Avenue deli near one of the new 7-Eleven stores, said he has seen sales drop since the new competition opened. "I usually order cigarettes every week; now this is the third week I still have them," he told the news outlet.
Still, other bodega owners operate outside of the neighborhoods 7-Eleven has entered and offer different products. "Most of our members carry food products, usually from different countries, that 7-Eleven doesn't carry," noted Jose Fernandez, president of the National Bodega Federation.
7-Eleven itself is offering different products in NYC than many of its stores nationwide do, according to the report. A York Avenue location offers organic cleaners and vegetarian products, while an Upper West Side Store offers kosher sandwiches. Outside the borough, a Flushing, Queens, store carries Chinese and Korean food products.
The Dallas-based chain may provide more competition in the near future as company statistics show 7-Eleven now has approximately 100 stores across the city, with at least 12 more scheduled to open by the end of this year. The retailer has grown 72 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the non-profit Center for an Urban Future. 7-Eleven will rank as the 15th largest NYC store chain when the organization's annual list is released shortly.