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MALL WALK: From Slurpees To Energy Drinks

New York Slurpee Junkies rejoice: For the first time in 23 years, you can pop into a 7-Eleven in Manhattan and suck down the sweet and icy concoction that, by the way, just celebrated its 40th anniversary. And for those with healthier cravings and those fearful of brain freeze, there's a choice of healthy, energy drinks. For the caffeine addicted, capuccino is available. And chicken caesar wraps and sushi are on the menu.

“The fresh-food offering is very good in our view and better than you might expect,” says Merrill Lynch analyst Patricia A. Baker. “Technology allows custom ordering by store and daily deliveries of fresh-food including sandwiches, bakery items and fruit.” That means the chain can finally compete with New York's delis, coffee shops and bodegas.

It was far different back in 1982. Then, you might find health and beauty aids and motor oil at a Manhattan 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven was partnered at that time with the Riese Brothers at three stores, but the relationship ended before a planned expansion of stores in the city. So 7-Eleven exited the Big Apple.

The new Manhattan store, in the city's Flatiron District, is sleek and clean and, as mentioned above, the food won't clog your arteries. In fact, the chain as a whole reported in late July that fresh food offerings grew 13 percent during the second quarter. Even suburbanites eat heart healthy from time-to-time.

The 1,500-square-foot store (their urban stores average from this size to 1,800 square feet, compared to 2,700 square feet for an average suburban store) is similar to other 7-Eleven downtown stores in Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago. The focus is on “neighborhoods,” and by that Dallas-based 7-Eleven — which has grown to 28,500 stores worldwide — means something different in the city than the suburbs. For one, an urban neighborhood encompasses a smaller area.

CEO Jim Keyes has said the inspiration for the urban store profiles were built on the firm's success in Asia. Traditionally, in the U.S., suburban stores might be located a half-mile or mile apart. In Taipei, they can be located on every block because the demographics — business and residential — change so much in such a small area.The same is true in Manhattan, although don't expect 7-Elevens on every corner.

7-Eleven has fashioned an infrastructure to support urban growth. “We have a retail information system that allows our store operators to forecast and order merchandise the meets local preferences and tastes as well as more basic convenience needs,” says a corporate spokewoman.

The strategy seems to be working. In the second quarter, core earnings grew 11 percent to $55.3 million from $48.1 million a year earlier. Revenues rose 9.1 percent to $3.4 billion. Same-store sales climbed 5 percent.

The urban format will continue to grow, with two more planned for Manhattan, both on the Upper East Side, and negotiations under way to “grow aggressively” here over the next several years, says the 7-Eleven spokeswoman.

I'm feeling a little parched and might just try a Slurpee — for the first time in 30 or so years. It will go great with a bagel and a shmear.


Location: 23rd and Park Avenue, Manhattan

Size: 1,500 Square Feet

Opened: July 11 or, 7-11

Owner: Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc.

More stores: Two more opening in Manhattan.

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