They claim to offer unrivalled convenience: but the inconvenient truth is that prices at your local 7-Eleven have crept up by almost a quarter in just three months, according to a new study.
Prices have been bumped on everything from noodles to napkins and chocolates to condoms at the ubiquitous store chain, according to research by the Labour Party.
The party said the price rises at 7-Eleven stores would be anything but convenient for Lunar New Year shoppers looking to pick up last-minute holiday gifts for friends and relatives, or left with no option as cheaper family-run stores close for the holiday.
The party says prices at 7-Eleven's 964 outlets went up by an average of 22.8 per cent between October and December, while the year-on-year inflation rate for food was 11.5 per cent in December, according to the Census and Statistics Department.
The store says its average price increase was just 2.8 per cent last year.
Survey organisers said whisky, a festive treat, was 10 per cent more expensive in December than in October. The price of chicken concentrate rose by 46 per cent.
Daily essentials also cost more. A bottle of Vitasoy milk cost HK$3.50 in October and HK$7 in December, a doubling of the price in two months, the survey found.
The Labour Party's vice-chairman, Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, said a far more worrying trend was the vast price difference between 7-Eleven stores and Wellcome supermarkets, both of which are owned by Dairy Farm International.
Shoppers could buy four bowls of noodles at Wellcome's 264 supermarkets for HK$21.90, but would only get one bowl for that price at 7-Eleven. Cheung accused Dairy Farm of making the most profit from people with limited mobility living in areas where supermarkets were scarce, such as Tung Chung.
The party, created last year by left-leaning members of the pan-democratic camp, said the differences were about maximising profits for Dairy Farm and its owner, the Jardine Matheson conglomerate.
'Dairy Farm controls pricing and limits residents' right to choose by way of its supermarkets and franchising rights and conditions,' Cheung said, 'so both residents and small shops are the victims under such conglomerate hegemony.'
Cheung said two thirds of 7-Eleven stores were run by franchisees, who had to follow the suggested retail prices put forward by Dairy Farm.
Smaller stores are also coming under pressure because of price agreements between suppliers and supermarkets, Cheung said, quoting media reports from last year. Shops which sold their products at less than the agreed price found their supplies cut off.
Cheung urged the Legislative Council not to consider supermarkets and convenience stores as separate industries when it passes the long-awaited competition law.
7-Eleven dismissed the party's concerns and said as many as 850 products were on promotion until January 31. '7-Eleven regularly provides discounts with a view to benefiting customers and promoting products,' a spokesman said.