7-Eleven Hawaii celebrates its 25th anniversary this year with 60 stores across Hawaii’s four islands: Oahu, Big Island, Kauai and Maui. Fifty of its stores are located on Oahu and supported by a hub-and-spoke transfer system where most of the goods that the stores order are delivered to its distribution center and then trucked out to its stores the same day.
In comparison, the other 10 stores on the neighbor islands require products to be barged or air shipped to them, Fujitani says. “The cost of building and operating a store on the neighbor islands is higher, but we are still seeking to expand in those areas,” he adds. “It may require more time to find best-fit locations, but it is our mission to expand our presence on the neighbor islands to meet residents’ demands and support their communities.”
7-Eleven Hawaii is opening four stores this year – three in Oahu and one in Kauai. The four stores will all be unique in some way and reflect their surrounding neighborhoods. “We see all neighborhoods equally,” Fujitani says. “They share many similarities and at the same time possess unique characteristics.”
While researching locations for its new stores, 7-Eleven Hawaii focuses on customer convenience and producing a profit for the company.
A list of conditions must be met to move forward with the location. “In areas where competition is high, we research if and how we can differentiate ourselves,” Fujitani notes. “In areas where there is little competition, we see how we can complement the neighborhood.” 7-Eleven Hawaii’s real estate team performs many different assessments of an area, such as traffic patterns of an area. The team then takes the information and uses analytics to justify the pursuit of the location.
The team then takes into account the overall parking available and the ease of entering and exiting the lot. Hawaii has a large driving population and in 2014 new vehicle registrations increased 11.2 percent over the previous year. Because of that, 7-Eleven recognizes that having sufficient parking is critical for its customers. Providing ease of entry and exit to its customers is also valuable to them because it helps save time during their commute.
“Everyone has a different idea of convenience,” Fujitani says. “We try to look at our locations from the customer’s perspective in terms of traffic, entry and exit.”
Demographics are also considered when determining whether the location will work for the store. The company looks at residential and employee density as well as takes into consideration any activity generators that would attract people to the neighborhood. Distribution logistics is also vital because one of 7-Eleven Hawaii’s fundamental rules is to “always have available the products that the customers want, when they want them.”
7-Eleven Hawaii prides itself on the uniqueness of its locations and plans to define convenience according to each neighborhood profile. “The merchandising and operations departments have focused on understanding each neighborhood using existing sales data as well as extensive market research,” Fujitani says. “This collaborative process has allowed for better product and service offerings for each store. A strength within 7-Eleven Hawaii is that each store has the ability to order unique products and services according to their customers’ demands.”
When the company builds a new store, the “makeover team” takes the lead and is comprised of the construction, operations and merchandising departments. 7-Eleven Hawaii’s relationship with 7-Eleven Japan and 7-Eleven Inc. provides it with a distinct advantage in the building process, Fujitani notes.
“With their assistance, the makeover team was able to take advantage of cost-savings in regards to the purchasing of materials and equipment,” he adds. “Items range from fixtures to lighting and flooring.”
The process of building a new store begins with the operations and merchandising departments verifying the store’s neighborhood profile. A neighborhood profile is the foundation for all the steps that will follow, including the store layout, new programs, product assortment and services. “We are keeping the brand the same, but we are making some tweaks to make them more relevant to their neighborhood,” Marketing Manager Edna Ching says.
For example, the company will be occupying space in Honolulu’s Kakaako neighborhood that recently transformed from being an industrial area with a number of auto dealerships into a residential community where the emphasis is on work, live, play and convenience, Ching says.
“As this neighborhood continues to develop there will be increasing demand for products and services within walking distance,” she adds. “Our plan is to define convenience according to each neighborhood profile.”
In addition to its new locations, the company is also renovating its existing locations to bring its customers a refreshed image. 7-Eleven Hawaii has completed 11 renovations over the past three years and will complete the remaining stores in four years. “This is a large investment, but we are committed to providing our customers with their ideal shopping experience,” Fujitani says. “The renovated and new stores will convey a refreshed and standardized brand image while offering a tailored product assortment relative to each neighborhood.”
At the end of last year, 7-Eleven Hawaii initiated its Brand Refresh Project with the goal of evolving the brand to reflect the evolution of its business. “The main intent was to makeover stores with a refreshed look and to look at the brand from the inside out,” Ching says. “With this project we have been taking a holistic point of view and are trying to be the neighborhood store.”
Moving forward, 7-Eleven Hawaii will continue working towards the company’s mission of being “your neighborhood store” by providing greater convenience and value to its customers. Its real estate department will continue to expand the store base and find “best-fit” locations. The department will also look to introduce different store formats to adapt to areas that have different needs, such as a college or business building.
“We want to be Hawaii’s community-centric retailer,” Fujitani says. “We live by our ‘your neighborhood store’ direction because we put our customers first.”