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7-Eleven store debuts in Beijing
( 2004-02-05 09:09) (China Daily by Liu Jie)

The residents of Beijing's busy Beixinqiao area will soon get the chance to shop any time they like, thanks to the opening of the capital's first 7-Eleven convenience store.

The world's No 1 convenience store operator will open its first 24-hour outlet in eastern downtown Beijing this Spring.

And according to Li Yong, deputy general manager of Beijing 7-Eleven Co Ltd, a newly established joint venture, around 150 outlets will open in Beijing this year, with a total of 500 convenience stores opening up within the next five years.

The convenience store king Seven-Eleven (7-Eleven) Inc got long-awaited approval from the central government at the end of last year to set up a joint venture in China.

Seven-Eleven Japan, a division of Japan-based Ito Yokado, Beijing Shoulian Group and the China National Sugar & Alcohol Group Corporation, hold 65 per cent, 25 per cent and 10 per cent stakes in the joint venture.

In a bid to get greater access to China's increasingly wealthy consumers, the joint venture is engaged in expanding 7-Eleven convenience stores in Beijing and the surrounding provinces.

China plans to lift the restriction on foreign ownership of chain stores - currently set at 65 per cent - by 2005, in line with its commitments to the World Trade Organization.

Yan Ligang, a spokesman of the Beijing Commerce Bureau, says that the time is ripe for the 7-Eleven to enter the market.

"They may use the one-year period to get familiar with the local market and gather experiences for the establishment of a wholly-funded enterprise in China and explore the South China and East China markets, where convenience stores have been well established," said Yan.

Domestic and overseas convenience store operators, including Shanghai's Hualian and Lianhau, Taiwan-based President Chain Store Corporation, Hong Kong's Dairy and Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Group, are engaged in stiff competition in South and East China.

But in Beijing, Superchain, Chaoshifa and Wumei just started to enter the convenience store market in 2002, with a properly established network of such stores yet to take shape in the capital, according to Chen Jian, a researcher at the policy study office of the Beijing municipal government.

Concerning the make-up of the 7-Eleven Beijing, Li indicated that selecting Shoulian as one of the joint venture's partners was due to Shoulian's strong position and experience in running chain stores.

"Shoulian's mature and complete sales network offers a shortcut for the 7-Eleven to get established in the capital," said Yan.

Shoulian, is composed of over 10 chain retailers, including Beijing Yikelong Commercial Co Ltd, Beijing Lufthansa & Wangjing Shopping Centre and Xiaobaiyang Supermarket, whose sales network has covered Beijing's urban area after more than 10 years of development.

But some of the stores will only open from 7:00 am until 11:00 pm, to suit the lifestyle of Beijingers.

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