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Title:7-Eleven Expands Locker Space, Hoping to Cash In on E-Commerce Wave

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7-Eleven Inc. is making space for more lockers at a number of its North American stores, in a bet that growing e-commerce volumes will help drive Slurpee sales.

The company has added lockers where customers can pick up packages from FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. over the last year, and announced in October that it would install Wal-Mart lockers in six locations in Toronto as well. The additions mark a significant expansion in scope of a program first piloted with Inc. in 2011. Now, any retailer that ships via UPS or FedEx has the lockers as a delivery option.

Customers in the U.S. and Canada who don’t want packages left on their doorsteps can arrange to have online orders from retailers delivered to lockers at 200 locations so far, which they open by scanning bar codes sent over email to their smartphones. The scan automatically opens the locker containing their purchase.

For retailers, locker solutions offer a potential salve for the logistical headaches that have come with surging online sales, including overtaxed distribution networks and escalating shipping costs. Wal-Mart, for example, can save on extra home delivery costs by dropping packages off directly at lockers using its own truck fleet. 7-Eleven has felt less of this pressure because much of its business comes from impulse purchases made in person. But executives say they had to find a way to stay relevant as an increasing number of consumers shop for groceries, personal grooming products and other convenience store staples online.

But it is a risky move for 7-Eleven, a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Seven & i Holdings Co. Each locker unit takes up about the same amount of space as one large shelf, holding dozens of lockers, which by some estimates could represent thousands of dollars in lost sales each year.

To 7-Eleven, the lockers are part of a larger strategy to keep customers coming to its stores as more commerce moves online. Fees from the lockers and the additional foot traffic they bring could also help the chain carve out a small slice of e-commerce business, even if 7-Eleven is largely a brick-and-mortar business, said Raja Doddala, vice president of new ventures and “omni-channel,” an industry term for retail through many different channels, including e-commerce.