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7-Eleven Hires College Interns for New-Product Ideas

DALLAS -- This summer, 7-Eleven Inc. enlisted three college interns to try their hand at creative product development as they were charged with cultivating new product ideas for 7-Eleven stores. The college seniors interned in the merchandising department at 7-Eleven's corporate headquarters in Dallas, but reported directly to the company's president and CEO, Jim Keyes.

Brad Barrett from Michigan State University, Lisa Garcia from Southern Methodist University and Paul Markowitz from Indiana University spent 10 weeks developing a list of 150 product concepts by going into the field to see other retailers' products and attending a local tradeshow for ideas. The list was eventually narrowed to 25 possible product concepts to research.

"With a unique insight into the popular culture among young people and their product preferences, the students were able to bring new ideas to 7-Eleven," said Keyes. "The results were beneficial to 7-Eleven with several potential product possibilities and a learning experience for the students."

The New Product Development Internship Program, now in its fourth year, was created to meet 7-Eleven's need for fresh ideas aimed at young people or youth. Some of the students' suggestions were accepted, such as new grill items and healthy snacks. But clearly, the wackiest suggestion was the smelly feet car fresheners.

"We were given the opportunity to work with every 7-Eleven business level -- from a store manager to a corporate chief to the CEO," said Markowitz, an economics major. "The internship showed me how to think outside the box and how important it is to always think of ways to improve products for the customer."

Barrett, Garcia and Markowitz started their internship with an eight-day, in-store experience, working behind 7-Eleven store counters, stocking shelves and developing an understanding of the inner workings and environment of a convenience store.

"The in-store experience really gave me a good perspective on who the store was selling to and how large the demographics for just one location can be," said Barrett, a Dallas native. "By reporting to Jim Keyes, I gained a lot of experience on how to approach executive management on an idea that could be used in stores."

Barrett, Garcia and Markowitz have been asked to present their findings from the summer to the company's executives in November.
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