Big gulp: 7-Eleven now up to 37 stores in Manhattan

A 7-Eleven on the Upper West Side
A 7-Eleven on the Upper West Side

Suburban convenience store 7-Eleven is pushing hard to gain acceptance in Manhattan as the company aggressively expands.

New Yorkers have been less than welcoming to the chain, which began elbowing its way into Manhattan in 2011. Since then the number of locations has quadrupled in Gotham, from eight to 37 stores. Five new outposts have opened in the past six months alone.

To ease the environment surrounding its rapidly expanding presence, 7-Eleven launched an innovation group two years ago that tests new digital offerings for customers, from Amazon Lockers to automated key-making kiosks. (An Amazon locker is an electronically operated box for deliveries from for customers who don’t have a doorman or other means of package storage).

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“When a retailer comes to New York City, you have to win over the city and earn your spot — you can’t just come in with your normal concept,” Mike Duda, chief executive of brand creative agency Johannes Leonardo, told Crain’s. “Utilities like the Amazon Locker and other things are something smart and extra that you can’t get somewhere else.”

The convenience-store chain is also working to remake its fast-food image by introducing healthy food options, such as fresh salads, and is trying out craft beer sales. Aesthetic changes are also a strategy, such as a coated awning added to an Avenue A outpost to soften the blaze of florescent lights.

Still, the store has plenty of detractors. Lower East Side blog No7Eleven has staged rallies and drummed up boycotts, and landmarked buildings are sometimes particularly resistant to renting.

“The look and feel of it does very little to warm the ambience of a building,” Andrew Moger, chief executive of real estate and construction management firm BCD, told Crain’s. “And the operating hours create more opportunities for noise and trash—not necessarily an amenity to tenants.” [Crain’s]Julie Strickland