C-store chain 7-Eleven is taking steps to lease some 600 new locations in Southern California, a move that could almost double its footprint in the area, the LA Times reported.
7-Eleven, a Dallas unit of Tokyo-based Seven & I Holdings Co., hired commercial real estate broker CB Richard Ellis on Thursday to begin finding locations for the planned expansion that will take seven years and add to the 800 stores that 7-Eleven operates from San Luis Obispo County to the Mexico border.
By launching the new stores in the midst of a real estate downturn, the company will save millions of dollars in rent. In addition, c-store sales are up and 7-Eleven’s parent company is supporting the decision to grow. Officials at 7-Eleven say they want to restore the dominance the brand enjoyed before other retailers moved in and upped the competition.
But the recession has not been easy for 7-Eleven. Earlier this year it laid off 200 non-store workers and said it would stop contributing to employees’ 401(k) retirement plans. Meanwhile upmarket c-stores are gaining ground and local supermarkets are competing for late-night shoppers.
7-Eleven, which at its peak in the 1980s had about 1,500 stores in California, is hoping consumers will stop in and take advantage of its foodservice offering instead of buying lunch out, part of a nationwide shift that has consumers shopping at Target instead of Nordstrom and taking advantage of dollar specials at fast-food chains.
By offering inexpensive food and other impulse items 7-Eleven and its competitors can attract more business during downturns than other retailers, Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Assn. of Convenience Stores told the LA Times. The store has upgraded its coffee selection and brought in more healthful options to accommodate changing consumer tastes.
“When you’re thirsty, you don’t check your 401(k),” Lenard said. “You just go in and buy a drink.”