7-Eleven Hunting For Product Breakthroughs

7-Eleven Inc. is looking for something new – the next Slurpee, portable grill, eco-friendly packaging, toy or perfect product – at an invitation-only innovation event from June 10 to 11, the company said.

The convenience-store giant is asking suppliers, vendors and manufacturers to apply and participate in its third annual innovation event at its Dallas headquarters. Finalists can 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,” said Kevin Elliott, 7-Eleven’s senior vice president of merchandising and logistics. “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.”

Elliott estimates 7-Eleven, which operates and franchises more than 5,600 7-Eleven stores in the United States, receives thousands of new ideas each year, with the company introducing at least 25 new products to its stores each week.

“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,” Elliott said. “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.”

With retail shelf-space at a premium, competition is fierce among manufacturers for product placement and much-coveted facings. In the small space of a 7-Eleven store, that’s especially so as product sales and profitability are measured in inches.

The Innovation Day application form and criteria are available at 7-Eleven’s web site, www.7-Eleven.com. Every application will be reviewed, and companies selected to participate will be contacted to schedule an appointment time with the management team. Each company’s presentation will be limited to 20 minutes.

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