7-Eleven Expands from Malt Liquor to High End Wine

Living in a city with many 7-Eleven locations within walking distance, I view the iconic convenience store as a place to buy three things: Slurpees, lottery tickets and Red Bull. Although I have always known that there is beer and wine for sale, it has never occurred to me to buy those items there. After all, that is why there are liquor stores. Not to mention, it is hard to imagine that any of the wine for sale at 7-Eleven could be very good.

Apparently, that is all changing.

Wine from 7-11Fine Wine at 7-Eleven

Edward Deitch, a James Beard Award winning wine critic, examined the phenomenon of fine wine sales at 7-Eleven over at NBC News. Here are the key points:

  • Although wine has been available at 7-Eleven for decades, the go-to adult beverages for most customers were cheap beer and malt liquor.

  • After the recession hit, 7-Eleven noticed that more customers were buying wine than ever before.

  • 7-Eleven is starting to sell “ultra-premium” wine ($15.99-19.99 per bottle) in an effort to illustrate to customers that “in their time-stressed world their neighborhood store has what they need and want.”

Convenience Brands Go Upscale with Mixed Results

7-Eleven is far from the first convenience brand to try to go upscale. Most notably, Starbucks locations across the country are attracting evening clientele with fancy small plates as well as a selection of suitably hip wine and beer. Despite the success of Starbucks’ classification efforts, other brands have not been so lucky.

McDonald’s tried to reach out to more upscale diners with their “Angus Third Pounders.” The expensive burgers did not resonate with consumers and have since been replaced with new Quarter Pounder flavors.

Some grocery stores have also tried to upgrade their images with poor results. For example, Dominick’s, a Chicagoland institution, will close at the end of the year. Experts say that the store’s efforts to provide shoppers with a classier experience alienated loyal customers without attracting any new ones.

The Takeaway

If you have a stable and well-loved brand, you will want to think carefully before you make an effort to take things upscale. You will need to ask yourself the important questions: How will my loyal customers respond? Will this move bring in enough new customers that I can stand to lose a few old ones? Will people be willing to pay me more for this? Additionally, you should have a plan for what you will do if your upscale efforts do not work. Look at McDonalds. The Angus Third Pounders did not pan out, so they turned back to the extremely popular Quarter Pounder.

Have you ever tried to make your brand more upscale? How did it work out for you?

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A teacher by trade, Elizabeth LaBelle graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in 2011. After specializing in Political Science and Francophone Studies with a minor in Korean, the only tangible skill she can show for it is the ability to write in all three languages. Elizabeth never thought she would get paid to write in any language – but after four years washing dishes in an industrial kitchen and a year selling office supplies door-to-door, nothing surprises her. When she’s not writing or teaching, Elizabeth coaches high school debate and forensics. Her hobbies include thoroughbred racing, competitive pool playing and hunting for the perfect Chicago apartment.

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