Monday, June 19, 2017

7-Eleven Makes Taipei The Most Convenient City in the World



By Asia Pop Culture

7-Eleven now seems to sound more like a 'blast from the past' in the US, gone are its glory days in the 80's.  Originally 'made in America', the company is now 70% owned by two Japanese entities after suffering from a heavy debt and a bankruptcy in 1991.  In the US, 7-Eleven is best known as a chain of mundane convenience stores selling large size drinks like its famous Big Gulp (32 to 53 oz) and slurpee drinks. Outside of US, 7-Eleven has a much bigger presence becoming indispensable in many regions.

TheNewsLens reported that 7-Eleven has 5,107 locations in Taiwan, with 751 listed just in the city of Taipei.  The area around Taipei Main Station is the most densely packed – 72 within a one-kilometer (0.62 miles) radius of the station, a real convenience for passengers just off the train to buy a boiled egg and a juice box within 100 meters. WSJ once gushed "Taiwan's convenience stores are some of the most convenient in the world."

Beyond the staple snacks, 7-Eleven's in Taiwan have weaved themselves into part of people's daily live there.  They provides many additional services that you do not find in the US, including dry cleaning, fax, internet, computer printer, train and concert ticket reservations, traffic fine and utility payment, hot meals, mail drop-off and book pickup and even passport paperwork.  They also deliver everything from refrigerators to multicourse banquets.  Of course, Taiwan people's hospitality and work ethics ensure that workers in any 7-Eleven store will bend backwards to help with whatever you need.

7-Eleven Stores Locations Near Taipei, Taiwan

Graphic Source: thenewslens.com

The variety of food, snack and mealbox (便當) options is amazing in any 7-Eleven in Taiwan.  The daily routine of  a working age person in Taiwan typically revolves around one convenience store or another -- visiting a convenience store each day for breakfast, returning after lunch for some sweets and errands, then afternoon tea, perhaps dinner, then a late-night snack.

7-Eleven is not without fierce competition in Taiwan. There are other brands – FamilyMart has more than 3000 outlets across the island, and HILife, OKMart and Simple Mart also have significant presence opening through the wee hours of the morning.

One reason for such robust expansion in locations and service offered is that living space is very limited (think Tokyo, Japan) without a fully functional kitchen.  Many rental units are basically a tiny efficiency with an electric burner(s).  In addition, driving and parking is a total pain in Taiwan, worse than New York or LA.  So there is a real need to have a convenience store within walking distance to get a quick bite, and run your errands.

One professor of sociology at National Taiwan University offered another perspective -- Convenience stores are so popular in Taiwan because they have ingrained themselves as a part of the communities in each neighborhood.  Indeed, I do remember when I was in the elementary school in Taipei, all the kids loved to hang out at the neighborhood convenience store to play, watch TV and eat sweets, while parents would chat and socialize.  This is something hard to come by in the West.

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