HONG KONG — Recognized all around the world for its orange-and-green numeric logo, 7-Eleven is an unlikely but growing fashion favorite in Hong Kong. The convenience store chain offers soda, snacks and increasingly, a place to process fashion returns and order pick-ups.
The latest brand to partner with the convenience store network is direct-to-consumer label Grana. Joining Asos, Taobao and Zalora, customers can opt to process their returns free-of-charge at 7-Elevens as of June 16. The service is not available at all of the city’s 7-Eleven locations, but with more than 330 authorized outlets, the move is expected “to enhance the online shopping experience for customers with anytime, anywhere drop offs to suit their fast-paced lifestyles,” the brand said.
Particularly for online labels, 7-Eleven is a low-cost, powerful way to access a physical network as fashion companies try to create an omnichannel experience. But the fashion world and 7-Eleven link-up also appears to be hinged on quirks unique to the city, and may not necessarily be scalable to other markets.
This is because Hong Kong 7-Elevens, are not just ubiquitous, they are also where the local populace do a wide range of things — including regularly pay their utility bills and even taxes. An absence of open container laws in Hong Kong means convenience stores also act as a social hive for drinkers with tight budgets. Jokingly referred to as Club 7-Eleven, stores on the weekend often attract a crowd knocking back alcoholic beverages bought from the store — a popular option to avoid running up a more expensive bar tab.
“We believe in tailoring our service to the markets we operate in and so we have simultaneously deployed a very similar process in the U.S.,” Oli Goulden, Grana’s head of marketing said. “Customers there are now able to drop off their return shipment at any USPS depot or even leave it with their doorman. In time, we hope to optimize our returns process in all of our tier-one and tier-two markets.”
The company is planning to take it a step further, by introducing a collection service, too, at 7-Eleven stores later this year, though conducting more of its business through the convenience store will open up the brand experience to more risks. A surly or sloppy 7-Eleven worker could negatively impact a customer’s perception of the label.
“[E]levating the post-purchase experience is important to keep our Millennial customers satisfied…,” said Grana ceo and founder Luke Grana when announcing the 7-Eleven partnership. “One bad experience, especially with returns can negatively impact brand love and have a ripple effect online and off-line.”
But the convenience of convenience stores seems to trump any such concern for now.
“No other company in Hong Kong has such extensive coverage across all districts,” Goulden said. “Ultimately, our decision to partner with 7-Eleven is about ensuring the highest level of convenience to the customer and we believe that it will be extremely well received.”