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7-Eleven – Can’t live without it

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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7-Eleven – Can’t live without it | Thaiger

PHUKET: Love it or hate it, the local 7-Eleven has become an integral part of daily life for most people living in urban Thailand.

From its humble beginnings in 1920s Dallas, Texas, where ice factory employee John Jefferson Green began selling milk, eggs and bread from an improvised store in front of the factory, it has grown to be the largest franchise operator in the world with over 50,000 stores. It seems to have found the perfect niche here in Thailand, with some 7,000 stores, surpassed in number only by the US and Japan.

So what is it that makes them so popular? Well, in a word, convenience. Where else can you grab a quick cheap bite to eat, withdraw some money from the ATM, pay a bill, top up your phone credit, buy a few beers and a copy of the paper in under five minutes, all in air conditioned comfort?

Well, nowhere else really, and that’s the recipe for their popularity. But, before you accuse me of leading the cheer squad for this westernized shopping experience that has so rapidly encroached on Thai life, it’s important to remember some of the ways the 7-Eleven experience has been “Thai-afied”.

Firstly, the prices. Items at 7-Eleven are reasonably priced, unlike in the West where “convenience” is factored into the cost at an astonishingly high rate, often making items twice as expensive as those in a large supermarket. This points to the Thai eye for value and a good bargain. If 7-Eleven set their prices too high, no one would go.

Secondly, more often then not, the stores serve as a gathering point for local vendors, where they can set up their stalls with free lighting and the promise of a constant flow of foot traffic – so rather then completely nudging out local traders, a symbiotic relationship is often formed.

Thirdly, they function as a sort of all-hours banking service. There is almost always an ATM, bills of all sorts can be paid in one spot and you can reliably break a 1,000-baht note at any time of the day or night. They are also one of the only places you can consistently find a rubbish bin in a country sorely lacking public bins.

So despite the valid criticisms of the high-calorie, low-nutrition food they purvey, and their smothering of small mom-and-pop stores, it seems certain that they are here to stay. And if the decrepit soi dog that sleeps right in the doorway of my local store has any say in it, there are some things about Thailand that even 7-Eleven will never change.

— Mark Knowles

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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