The first day I was showing a “newbie” around Bangkok he commented that we never seemed to go more than three blocks without seeing a 7-Eleven store. I had to agree, but pointed out how that applies more to tourists who tend to stay in more “Westernized” areas, along with plenty of other Western chain names. Nevertheless, their retail presence is so conspicuous you could almost say it was invasive, somewhat like the water hyacinth that’s choking the Chao Phraya and other waterways.
The main corporate offices for the monster that is 7-Eleven are located in Dallas, Texas in the good ol’ USA. They claim a total of 6,000 in there and (quoting their web site) “7-Eleven licensees and affiliates operate more than 29,700 7-Eleven and other convenience stores in countries including Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.”
According to the same corporate site there are just over 5,400 locations in Thailand, all under the corporate umbrella of the Charoen Pokphand Group. Approximately half of those sites (which would be about 2,700) are in Bangkok, which means currently there are more 7-Elevens in Bangkok than there are in all of China (1,680), but the way China’s retail demands are mutating I’d say check that figure again in about six months.
The first Thailand shop opened in 1989 on Silom Road - a location many would find familiar territory. That first location underwent an upgrade and re-opening at the beginning of this year to allow a wider range of prepared and quick foods, something that has become a major part of their business. Somewhere I have an article about that, and I'll find it one of these days.
For many Western tourists the familiarity of the green, red and orange logo is a touchstone with reality, a reminder that although the insides are “same same, but different” it gives one a hand hold in what can be an otherwise rather foreign neighborhood. Personally I relish that difference and stop into a 7-Eleven frequently, if for nothing more than a replacement bottle of water.
Just as in the US there are a number of other convenience store chains - Family Mart being the first to come to mind - but none have the numbers that 7-Eleven does.
I’m also tagging today’s story with the “Same same, but different” label, because although it’s familiar territory there are plenty of differences in evidence. For a start, there aren’t many 7-Elevens here in the US with a rack of condoms by the register (although it’d be a good idea, in my opinion) and the cigarettes are hidden away behind a metal door - most of the time. The liquor is behind the counter, perhaps to discourage pilferage.
Many of the items are familiar, but there are enough differences to make browsing interesting. You can buy bread, but because it doesn’t keep as well in the climate you purchase it in what would be a half loaf here. There are pre-made sandwiches in the deli case, but also on the shelf with the breadstuff, and some of that is unusual, too: buns filled with taro and red bean paste, for example.
Lays has finagled their way into a lot of shelf space, usually, and you can buy regular and BBQ potato chips but you can also get nori (seaweed) flavored ones, too. Being a more lactose-intolerant group of people there you don’t find the variety of dairy products you’d expect at home, but there’s a good selection of soy- and rice-based alternatives.
Candies are much the same – many familiar brands (Snickers, MandMs, Mentos, even Toblerone and Fererro Rocher candies) as well as other Asian brands. There are some we saw back in earlier “Same same, but different” posts here and here.
We’ll re-visit this 7- Eleven topic again, but this gives you an overview.