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    Seven & I CEO Suzuki Talks U.S. Growth Strategy

    Fresh food is one area of opportunity for 7-Eleven Inc.

    NEW YORK -- 7-Eleven has more than 50,000 outlets worldwide, more than any other retail chain, but Toshifumi Suzuki, CEO of parent company Seven & I Holdings Co., still sees room for growth in the United States, according to a report by Bloomberg.

    "Our U.S. business has entered the growth stage," Suzuki told the news outlet. The company will make more acquisitions and "will raise the quality of stores." In June, Suzuki predicted that 7-Eleven could grow to as many as 30,000 units in the U.S., as CSNews Online reported.

    To capitalize on this growth potential, though, 7-Eleven can't just imitate its Japanese strategy for success. "American 7-Elevens have to do things that satisfy American consumers," Suzuki said. "So, I don't tell them to do things exactly how we do them in Japan."

    Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc., the company's U.S. convenience store unit, expects to post a record operating profit of $540 million this fiscal year, up 13 percent from last year.

    Tokyo-based Seven & I, which also operates other non-7-Eleven businesses in Japan, expects a 15-percent increase in earnings to 340 billion yen, or more than $2.4 billion -- a record for the third straight year. In terms of profits, Seven & I had an operating margin of 7.13 percent for the fiscal year that ended in February, ahead of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. at 5.93 percent.

    Japanese 7-Eleven stores open in clusters in order to streamline logistics and ensure fresher produce, due to the company's desire for outlets it can supply from distribution centers three hours away or less. Its focus on fresh food, bento lunches and private label goods may have lured customers away from supermarkets.

    Similarly, 7-Eleven stores in the U.S. have begun offering more fresh food in recent times.

    Eventually, the 80-year-old Suzuki could be succeeded by his son Yasuhiro Suzuki, who runs Seven & I's online business unit, Seven Net Shopping Co., but the chief executive told Bloomberg that his son is not a guaranteed successor and should "do his thing freely."

    Ultimately, Suzuki's goal is to give each potential next CEO "a chance to prove him or herself," according to the report.

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