7-Eleven Cambodia Set To Disrupt Country's Convenience Store Market
Jun 20, 2020

The popular chain is expected to ride the country’s rapid shift to modern retail

7-Eleven Cambodia is finally setting up shop. The renowned brand hopes to open its first branch in Phnom Penh by 2021. The Cambodian franchise will be administered by CP All Public Co. Ltd, the conglomerate that also operates almost 12,000 7-Eleven stores in Thailand. This signals a new turn in the Cambodia convenience store industry.

Cambodia will be the nineteenth country where 7-Eleven will operate and the sixth in Southeast Asia, joining others such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. The brand has over 70,000 stores around the globe.

7-Eleven is not the first major convenience store brand to start in Cambodia. It will face competition from other mini-marts such as Circle K, Kiwi Mart, Aeon MaxValu Express, Smile Mini Mart and more. And yet, 7-Eleven Cambodia has a huge advantage in being a known and trusted global brand. There’s little doubt they will further raise Cambodia’s growing retail industry.

Modernising the market

Although convenience stores have been sprouting up all over Southeast Asia, Cambodia has been slow in adopting a more modern retail setup. The country has been described as having the most unsaturated convenience store market in Southeast Asia.

This is largely in part to the current Cambodian retail norm of small, family-owned stores. These traditional “mom-and-pop shops” sell perishable items at low prices and have long met the needs of Cambodia’s largely lower-to-middle-income consumer base.

Things began to change in 2018, when the American-Canadian mini-mart chain Circle K opened its first branch in Phnom Penh. Currently, the chain has 25 stores nationwide and aims to open 300 more stores over the next ten years. They are followed by Kiwi Mart with 22 stores, Aeon MaxValu Express with nine stores, Smile Mini Mart with 11 stores and Lucky Express with five stores.

The power of the bourgeoisie

Their optimism is no doubt driven by the rapid growth of Cambodia’s middle class.

Cambodia’s convenience store boom coincides with the country’s middle-class boom. The shift from traditional to a more modern, convenience-based retail market comes as a result of companies addressing the shifting needs of consumers.

Cambodia’s middle class is growing at an unprecedented rate, enjoying a greater level of disposable income more than ever before. Currently, nominal per capita income has approached the $1,700-level as the country’s pre-Covid-19 economy grew by seven per cent over the past decade. In 2019, the country was among the fastest growing ASEAN economies.

Analysts find that today’s young urban Cambodian consumers are willing to pay a ten to 20 per cent premium for cleaner stores with international higher-quality products. This is good news for the likes of 7-Eleven which have built their reputation on such specifics.

Gentrifying retail

According to UK-based Institute of Grocery Distribution, Asia’s leading convenience retailers are predicted to grow 6.6 per cent a year to $5.1 trillion in revenue by 2022. For Cambodia specifically, the grocery and convenience store market is expected to be worth $9.3 billion by 2023.

This retail growth is not without its costs. As convenience stores and global chains rise, the mom-and-pop shops that are such a feature of everyday ASEAN life experience a slow and steady decline. According to the Cambodia Constructors Association, small family-owned stores will see a significant drop in demand in about ten to 15 years.

7-Eleven’s entry will further disrupt the local convenience store industry but remains an exciting development in the Cambodia retail sector. Local entrepreneurs may soon have the opportunity to own and manage their own 7-Eleven franchise. Additionally, the chain is sure to create thousands of new jobs in the country.

The arrival of 7-Eleven in Cambodia will address the modern needs of local consumers. It will be interesting to see how quickly they dominate (or don’t) the current convenience store players. Will their established brand catapult them to the top of the Cambodian convenience store market?

By Jeremiah Capacillo