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    7-Eleven takes up photography services, private labels in Japan, will halt expansions in Thailand.

    C.P. Seven-Eleven Plc, Thailand's largest c-store operator with 3,750 7-Eleven locations, will stop expanding in the country once it operates 5,000 stores, which it is expected to reach within three years, the Bangkok Post reported.

    "We will review and consider if the market demand for convenience stores will remain or not at that time. If the number of convenience stores reaches 20,000 outlets in total, market demand would be saturated," Suvit Kingkaew, deputy managing director of C.P. Seven Eleven, told the newspaper.

    To reach the 5,000 mark, the company plans to open 500 outlets in 2007, 50 more locations than in the past. If the plan is carried out, the total number of 7-Elevens in 2007 will reach 4,250, the report stated.

    7-Eleven stores far outnumber other chains in the country. Of the 10,000 convenience stores in Thailand, approximately one third are 7-Elevens; Family Mart operates 650 stores, V-Shop owns 800 stores, Freshmart has 300 locations and the remainder are independent or locally owned, the report stated.

    Expansion opportunities are numerous in the country, where new communities are being created. "There is a huge market potential if we can encourage some of them to turn themselves from traditional grocery stores to the convenience-store format," Kingkaew told the Post. The number of grocery stores in the country is estimated to exceed one million stores, according to the Post.

    Some convenience store operators overseas have eyed the country as an area of expansion. Circle K is reported to have entered negotiations with partners in Thailand to develop a chain there, but failed, the report stated.

    In Japan, the chain's holding company, Seven & I, plans to create a private label that will cover beverages, ramen noodles, baked goods and other packaged foods, in an attempt to differentiate itself from an increasingly competitive market there, reported MorningNewsBeat.com.

    The 100 SKU private label line will sport a single proprietary brand name -- which has not been announced to date -- and will be sold in the chain's more than 12,000 stores in Japan. The sales goal for the first year will be more than US $400 million. Within three years, the company plans to expand the line to 1,200 SKUs and US $3 billion in sales, the report stated.

    In other 7-Eleven news, the company will offer Microsoft Vista users the chance to print out digital photos in all of Seven-Eleven Japan Co.'s 11,507 convenience stores, InfoWorld.com reported.

    The service is linked to photo album software in the Vista operating system which begins when the user selects the photos that need to be printed. The photos are then uploaded to a server operated by Fuji Xerox Co., which maintains the kiosks that print photos in 7-Eleven stores.

    Once the upload is complete, the user is given an eight-digit code to use at any of the chain's kiosks when retrieving the pictures for printing and payment. Once the code is entered and payment is made, the photos are printed from the kiosk and then deleted from the server, according to the Web site. Kiosks used to print the photos were installed in 2005 and also offer services such as copying, photo printing from memory cards, printing out items from the Internet and faxing, the report stated.

    The service is aimed at customers that do not have a home printer or want to distribute pictures, the report stated. Customers can upload photos from an event such as a wedding, send the code to friends to print at the location of their choice.

    "One of the goals of the service is allowing end users to easily and safely order photos," said Kazuo Sakai of Microsoft's digital entertainment partner division.

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