BONUS CONTENT: Big Changes on the Horizon for the Top 100

NATIONAL REPORT — This past fall, 7-Eleven Inc.'s parent company, Seven & i Holdings Co., revealed ambitious plans to grow its North American convenience store holdings dramatically via acquisitions. The goal: a total of 10,000 7-Eleven convenience stores on the continent by its fiscal year 2019, compared to roughly 8,900 locations as of June 30, 2016.

This spring, Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven — already No. 1 on this year's Convenience Store News Top 100 ranking — took a giant step toward that goal with the announcement that it reached an agreement to acquire roughly 1,108 convenience stores from Sunoco LP in a deal worth a $3.3 billion in cash, plus fuel, merchandise and other inventories. 

The transaction, slated to close in the second half of this year, spans markets in 18 states. In addition to the convenience stores, the transaction includes the associated trademarks and intellectual property of Sunoco's Laredo Taco Co. and Stripes brands.

Once completed, it will be one of the largest growth moves in 7-Eleven's history.

For its part, Sunoco is also seeking a buyer — or buyers — for approximately 200 additional c-stores in North and West Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Sunoco will essentially move away from the operations side of the convenience store business, though its Aloha Petroleum business unit in Hawaii will continue to operate within Sunoco. Likewise, the transaction does not include Sunoco's highly successful APlus franchisee-operated stores.

These sales will almost certainly remove Sunoco from the top 10 chains in the next CSNews Top 100 ranking. This year, Sunoco could be found in the No. 6 spot with 3,007 stores.

On the other side of the coin, closing the Sunoco acquisition will likely give 7-Eleven another year at the head of the Top 100 — continuing its lead over second-ranked Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard, though, is making big rumbles of its own with its June 28 acquisition of No. 9 CST Brands Inc. in San Antonio, and its pending acquisition of No. 24 Holiday Cos. Inc. in Bloomington, Minn.

As of this year's ranking, Couche-Tard's U.S. footprint consisted of 5,333 stores to 7-Eleven’s 8.391. Its takeover of CST brings more than 2,000 locations throughout the southwestern United States, Georgia, Florida and New York. And the Holiday purchase will bring another 522 stores in 10 states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan and Alaska.

7-Eleven and Couche-Tard aside, another significant potential change hangs in the air as No. 4 Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) is currently performing a strategic review of its retail arm, Speedway LLC. The review by a special committee of the company's board of directors includes consideration of a tax-free separation of Speedway to MPC shareholders, and other strategic and financial alternatives. An update on the review is expected this summer.

If Findlay, Ohio-based MPC decides to place a for-sale sign on Speedway, roughly 2,730 convenience stores in 21 states would come on the market — where 7-Eleven or Couche-Tard could pounce.

The annual CSNews Top 100 is the industry's longest-running accounting of the largest convenience store chains by store count. The annual report is compiled in partnership with TDLinx, a service of Nielsen. For the report, a convenience store is defined as a small-format store of at least 800 square feet; with 500 to 1,500 SKUs; that operates at least 13 hours a day; and carries a limited selection of grocery items, including at least two of the following: toilet paper, soap, disposable diapers, pet food, breakfast cereal, tuna fish, toothpaste, ketchup and canned goods.