DETROIT -- It has been nearly two decades since there was a 7-Eleven inside Detroit's city limits. By year's end, the company expects to open three stores in the downtown business district, Stephen Oliver, regional development director for the Dallas-based convenience store chain, told Crain's Detroit Business.
"Detroit's metro area is probably the largest market where we have stores, but we have no stores in the city," Oliver told Crain's at the Detroit Policy Conference. "So, our growth effort is to get back into the city."
He said the company's revived interest in downtown Detroit isn't entirely due to the resurgence of activity in the district over the past few years, but rather a reflection of the company's emphasis on urban centers across the country.
More downtown activity, he said, creates an opportunity for the company to act as a catalyst for bringing more businesses inside city limits, he said. "We can be a precipice for growth," he said. "Someone has to be first, we tend to be first, and people tend to follow."
He said the two main factors the company looks for in gauging a site's potential success is the number of pedestrians and density. The benchmark the company looks for in a potential site, Oliver said, is for there to be more than 10,000 people within a quarter-mile walking distance of the storefront.
Oliver told the newspaper that the company is negotiating four to six sites around the Renaissance Center and Comerica Park. He said if all goes smoothly, there could be three stores operating by summer, but "the end of the year is probably more realistic."
He also said that 7-Elevens are an asset to a community that may be struggling with crime issues. He said they do commissary, bakery, overnight delivery, grocery deliveries and soft drinks delivery, "so there's a lot of activity on the site."
"Another thing we've found is that when we're open 24 hours we become the eyes of the neighborhood," Oliver said. "And I don't want to say things become safer, but there's more activity, which breeds [an environment where] everyone is looking out for one another."
Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises or licenses more than 10,000 7-Eleven stores in North America. Globally, there are nearly 50,000 7-Eleven stores in 16 countries. During 2011, 7-Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales close to $76.6 billion.