SAN ANTONIO — Following remarks made from one Japanese franchise owner, the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees (NCASEF) is calling on company leaders to improve communication and collaboration with their store operators.
"We see a tremendous imbalance of power within the 7-Eleven franchise system, where the corporation exercises control over its franchisees and retaliates against those that speak out or offer criticism," said NCASEF Chairman Jay Singh, a Texas franchise owner.
San Antonio-based NCASEF is an elected, independent body representing more than 7,000 7-Eleven franchised locations in the U.S.
Tensions are running high between 7-Eleven Inc. and its franchisees following publicity surrounding Japanese franchisee Mitoshi Matsumoto. The operator pressed 7-Eleven's mandate that stores remain open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and then closed his store on New Year's Eve.
After Matsumoto announced he would close for New Year's, 7-Eleven issued a number of violations against Matsumoto and canceled his contract on Jan. 1.
"They don't want to let me take New Year's off. That's all there is to it," he told The New York Times.
Since Matsumoto's emergence, other franchisees have spoken out about their issues.
"We are concerned about the company's abuse of power and retaliatory measures against franchisees that speak up. By trying to squelch Mr. Matsumoto, 7-Eleven is telling all its franchisees they had better not take a stand," said NCASEF Executive Vice Chairman Michael Jorgensen, a Florida franchise owner who was part of a National Coalition contingent invited to Japan last year to learn about the issues store operators face there.
Takanori Sakai, head of Japan's Convenience Store union, sent a letter to 7-Eleven questioning the company’s culture of open communication, writing, "Is this the way we respond to our business partners who want to be the honest company you advocate?"
Singh added, "It is a frightening realization for franchisees to see such a blatant abuse of power. It is time for the leadership to commit to a collaborative relationship that protects store operators’ profits, health and well-being."
7-Eleven's corporate headquarters are based in Irving, Texas. The company operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 67,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.