The Company repositions its model for accelerated growth.
By Mitch Morrison
DALLAS -- The largest and fastest growing convenience chain in North America is undergoing a dramatic internal reorganization.
CSP Daily News has learned that 7-Eleven Inc. is embarking on a restructuring one franchisee called the most significant in more than three decades, as the company repositions its model for accelerated growth.
Specifically, 7-Eleven is:
"There will be job-cutting without a doubt. I know of three or four people who are losing their jobs," said Tariq Khan, a veteran franchisee and a former president of the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees.
Khan was one of six people interviewed for this story and the only one to speak on the record. The others--sources representing a cross-section of employees, operators and vendors--spoke on condition of anonymity.
"As a franchise leader, anytime a company consolidates you get nervous, because you feel you're going to lose some service," said Khan, operator of a handful of stores in Long Island, N.Y. "My concerns are like who will be helping me resolve my problems with a supplier or a vendor. A big position is merchandising and support. Now, they want all the merchandising to be done in Dallas, and they want to make sure there's only one message to get out--and that's from corporate headquarters."
Whispers of an overhaul started earlier this month when 7-Eleven president and CEO Joe DePinto and executive vice president/COO Darren Rebelez held a conference call with suppliers outlining the changes.
The communication was followed by a conference call last week, in which corporate executives unveiled the newest strategy to its franchisees. The call, according to multiple sources, did not allow for questions. All told, about 3,000 franchisees operate approximately 4,800 7-Eleven stores in the United States.
Asked about the corporate changes, 7-Eleven communications director Margaret Chabris emailed the following statement to CSP Daily News:
7-Eleven Franchising, Inc. has been transforming its business for the past several years to better serve our stores and our stores' guests. We have made significant progress in many areas and now are moving into the next phase that will better position our field operations team to work more closely with our stores. The changes we are making also will centralize support functions to create more effective and efficient programs and processes.
"All of the changes that are taking place over the next few months are made to deliver convenience without compromise, to create a better experience for our store guests and provide them with the products they want and the quality and value they expect.
"While there will be some loss of positions as we consolidate field offices, we are adding new roles, creating new opportunities and inviting those whose jobs are affected to apply for these new positions."
Rapid Store Growth
The company's historic restructuring comes as it is pursuing a remarkable growth strategy, considered one of the largest by any retailer in the United States. With more than 7,100 stores in the United States and Canada, 7-Eleven recently announced plans to open 500 stores in the two countries in 2011.
Indeed, while such chains as Alimentation Couche-Tard and The Pantry have built a reputation on their aggressive merger-acquisition strategy, industry experts now say that 7-Eleven may be the most assertive of all.
"I don't think I would try to grow 500 stores and conduct a massive culture change at the same time," the source said.
Another source was equally taken by the scale and pace of change. "I've never seen anything of this magnitude. On one hand, they're seeing that having more zones will get the reps to more stores, but at the same time they're losing a lot of senior and mid-level management with tens of years of in-the-field experience. If I were a competitor, I'd be looking to hire some of these folks."
Other sources praised 7-Eleven for embracing a growth strategy and seizing on the weak economy to buoy store count. They also approved increasing the number of zones, which will be fielded largely by home offices. While supporting 7-Eleven's larger goals, these same sources questioned whether the elimination of regional divisions will threaten the company's overall nimbleness and the long-term value of the company's franchise business.
"It seems to contradict their retail strategy of getting close to the stores, getting close to the customers," a source said. "7-Eleven is a very large company with a strong business model. But I don't see how you strengthen your local stores by pulling out your market offices and replacing them with virtual offices."
"Now, instead of having your regional merchandiser come in, the information is going to have to go 1,700 miles away to someone in Dallas."