LAVAL, Quebec — Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is continuing to build on a year of record organic growth.
During the first quarter of its 2023 fiscal year, which ended July 17, the convenience store retailer expanded its network by building 30 new sites. The company also has 55 sites currently under construction, according to President and CEO Brian Hannasch.
"This is all part of our effort to improve our development, design and entitlement process, which is resulting in a robust pipeline for future store openings," he said during an Aug. 31 earnings call.
"Despite severe supply chain challenges combining with significant cost increases, our teams have worked very hard to be successful in renovating existing stores and developing a new core store prototype, which we value engineer to deliver reduced costs and quicker build times," the chief executive explained.
During the quarter, the Laval-based convenience retailer also completed its acquisition of Wilsons Gas Stops and Go! Stores. In mid-2021, Couche-Tard signed a binding agreement to acquire the Wilsons network, which operates in all four Atlantic Canada provinces. The finalized deal included 179 corporate-owned and -operated convenience retail and fuel locations; 147 dealer locations, of which two are corporately owned; and a marine fuel terminal in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"We're excited about welcoming these great stores and family members to the Couche-Tard family and expanding our reach in Atlantic Canada," Hannasch said.
Couche-Tard acquired the Esso, Wilsons Gas Stops and Go! Store convenience store brands through its purchase of Cape D'Or Holdings Ltd., Barrington Terminals Ltd. and other related holding entities, which operated the independent c-store and fuel network.
The closing was made possible by Couche-Tard's agreement with the Competition Bureau in Canada to settle competitive concerns in several markets. Couche-Tard agreed to sell 46 Wilsons sites and supply agreements, and one Couche-Tard gas station to a buyer or buyers to be approved by the Commissioner of Competition.
As part of the agreement, Couche-Tard will sell retail gas sites in the following markets:
New Brunswick: Bouctouche, Cap Pele, Oak Bay-St-Stephen, Quispamsis, Sackville, Saint John, Saint-Antoine, Shediac, St-Ignace, Sussex, Utopia-Saint George-Pennfield, and Waasis
Newfoundland & Labrador: Gander
Nova Scotia: Barrington Passage, Bedford, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Digby, Elmsdale-Enfield, Halifax, Lower Sackville, Lunenburg, Mt. Uniacke, Sydney, Truro, Upper Tantallon, West Amherst, and Westville
Prince Edward Island: Stratford – Charlottetown and Summerside
Staffing the Stores
In addition to growing its network, Couche-Tard took steps during the latest quarter to build up its employee roster in the face of staffing challenges.
"This quarter, our hire rates were significantly higher than our termination rates, and staffing is returning much closer to normal levels. We've had improved candidate flow, allowing us to fill positions in our stores as we've staffed up for the busier summer season. This also results in bringing down overtime costs and retention costs that we had in place in past quarters," Hannasch explained.
In early June, Couche-Tard launched a campaign to hire 25,000 workers for the summer. It received more than 160,000 applications.
Approximately 122,000 people are employed throughout its network.
Couche-Tard operates in 24 countries and territories, with almost 14,100 stores, of which approximately 10,700 offer road transportation fuel. With its Couche-Tard and Circle K banners, it is one of the largest independent convenience store operators in the United States, and it is a leader in the c-store industry and road transportation fuel retail in Canada, Scandinavia, the Baltics, as well as in Ireland. It also has an presence in Poland and Hong Kong SAR.