This story is old news. I remember when it happened in California, when Starbucks began taking over the world. Although the ‘bucks began in the 70’s it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that they began popping up all over the place, including, literally across the road. I’ve recently wondered about the “unnecessary” pop-ups of 7-Elevens throughout Thailand, among other Asian countries (which I’ll try to answer). Recently in my neighborhood, my favorite go-to photography shop has closed it’s doors, and it wasn’t until those unmistakable orange, green, and red colors went up, did I understand what was to take it’s place. While I understand, a photo shop is almost more of a novelty than necessity, is another 7-Eleven, smack dab in the middle of two sufficient ones less than 50 meters apart, really needed?
To get an understanding of what is going on, a quick history of the convenient chain is needed—so in we delve. Before we were introduced to our ever favorite Slurpee or Big Gulp, the humble beginnings of 7-Eleven were born from the Southland’s Ice Corporation in 1927 to offer eggs, bread, and milk at a local ice house in Texas, before the modern convenience of refrigeration, of course (an ice house was literally a place to purchase ice back in the day for any food preservation needed). Though these things were readily available already, the idea of a “one stop” shop for all of your needs began to change the game. In addition to home goods, petrol was offered, a mandate of proper equal training so each customer received the same quality of service at any shop, and the issuance of a standard uniform set this ice service station apart.
Like many businesses at that time, they were not invisible to the Great Depression, which caused their bankruptcy in 1931. Only through bonds and the addition of a board of directors—all a huge shift of power—did they ultimately change their name in 1946 to the world known 7-Eleven to reflect their new hours of operation, 7am-11pm, which was unprecedented. After entering the franchise business in 1964, twenty years later we see a $5.2 billion management buyout of Southland Corporation, and shorty after we see that in 1990 70% of the company is transferred to the Japanese affiliate Ito-Yokada.
What does this mean for where we are today?
7-Eleven first opened its doors on Patpong Road in 1989 in Bangkok. Having expanded its reach in 2015 an extra 705 new stores, the expansion brought the total amount of standalone stores (corporate or franchise) and stores in PTT gas stations to a whopping 8,832 Kingdom wide. According to CP ALL’s 2015 Fiscal Year Report, there are 3,908 corporate stores (44%), 4,257 franchise stores (48%), and 667 sub-area license stores (8%). Furthermore, they have averaged that 10.9 million customers visit these shops each day! That’s a whole lot of business happening, as can be expected. And with plans to reach 10,000 stores by 2018, we are assured this number will continue to rise. So what is in it for CP ALL (or The Company)?
The Company has got it made and have known the route they were taking from the very beginning. CP ALL, also started in the 1920’s is the sole operator of 7-Elevens, conveniently so. The Company is one of Thailand’s largest private companies, with ties to at least 20 other countries throughout the world mainly dealing with agribusiness and food, retail, and distribution. A peek into any 7-Eleven is proof that these stores are just another outlet for ready to eat, packaged foods. What originally began the idea of convenience in 1927 still holds true to this day.
Convenience is a huge factor of 7-Elevens popping up everywhere! You want something quick, no need to wade through a market or mall for it when you have the choice of shops on every corner that sell almost the exact same goods at the prices you know. Especially in such a high climate, no one is going to want to walk too far to get what’s needed. 7-Eleven is a convenient store, in every sense of the word, I just didn’t fully realize it until I moved to the Kingdom.
Aside from convenience, with CP ALL able to grant franchises to interested parties it’s as if the expansion isn’t even all at The Company’s hands. With everything in 7-Elevens, operations are so cut and paste it takes no time whatsoever to open new doors wherever there may be a need for it—perhaps opening a corporate shop amid a few franchised ones? Either way, it’s The Company that is raking in most of the benefits.
Now, I enjoy 7-Eleven. I now have three within a two-minute walk from my home. They are one of the few places that sell my favorite drink, Siam Sato. And what the hell, I can pick up some laundry detergent, Royal D, a snack or ice cream for the road, and top up my phone all in one fail swoop. It truly is convenient. What scares me when it comes to ANY large business is if they have the public or even the Earth’s best interests when it comes to making money. I’m referring to waste—specifically plastic waste. There is no denying South East Asia’s involvement in the waste of plastic in the world, and 7-Elevens are probably one of the biggest factors in this. There may be no way around 7-Eleven, but we can think about shopping more wisely. (A informative read by Gaspard here on 7-Elevens which elicited a response from headquarters!)
7-Elevens are huge and are here to stay. And I somewhat understand how they can manage to continue after looking into it a bit further. It was in the mid 2000’s when I began to notice these big companies in California closing their doors for good. They had opened too many Starbucks Coffees next to each other, too many 7-Elevens next to each other and in reverse they were forced to close up shop. I’m sure it affected the people that lost their jobs more than the corporations, and not one bit of the customers that were forced to find another location. I wonder if it will happen here in Thailand someday? I mean if one closes up, I’m sure I will be able to find another a stone’s throw away.