LAVAL, Quebec — In September 2015, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. embarked on a journey to unite its vast convenience store network under one umbrella: a new global Circle K brand.
The move followed several acquisitions Couche-Tard made in Europe, including the retail assets of Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA in Norway, Topaz in Ireland and Shell in Denmark; as well as its purchase of The Pantry Inc., parent company of Kangaroo Express, in the southeast United States.
Now, three years in, the Laval-based retailer has reached a significant milestone in the journey, Couche-Tard President and CEO Brian Hannasch announced during the company's fourth-quarter fiscal 2019 earnings call on July 10.
According to the chief executive, Couche-Tard "has made tremendous progress" this year expanding the global Circle K brand to more than 5,600 stores in North America and more than 2,000 stores in Europe.
"The most exciting benchmark this quarter was the finalization of the rebranding project in Europe, as Ireland is now complete," Hannasch said, adding that "the march west" in the U.S. is proceeding at a rapid pace.
Approximately 98 percent of the company's sites in its U.S. Rocky Mountain Business Unit and 550 stores — roughly 80 percent — in the Texas Business Unit are now sporting the new global Circle K brand.
Couche-Tard expects to finish the rebranding efforts in Texas, which are mostly CST sites, in fiscal 2020. In addition, the Grand Canyon Business Unit — previously the company's Arizona Business Unit — is more than halfway completed.
"This ambitious rebranding strategy, which began about three and half years ago, continues to be a real win for our business," Hannasch said. "With our key partners, we are now able to leverage national promotional campaigns and gain penetration in our private label products.
"For our customers, the aided and non-aided awareness across the globe has been outstanding," he continued. "For our team members, there is now a foundation for our shared employee culture and pride in Circle K — which is probably the best payoff of all in this journey."
Circle K Fuel Brand
In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, Couche-Tard also continued to grow its Circle K fuel brand. In Europe, the retailer is almost finished converting its Statoil, Topaz and Shell locations to the Circle K fuel brand. In the U.S., 900 sites were offering the brand by the end of the fiscal year.
"This unification of the Circle K brand inside our stores and at our fuel islands is contributing topline growth, and our easy pay ACH program — which gives customers a discount on fuel — is growing in penetration every day," Hannasch noted.
As of April 28, Couche-Tard's network comprised 9,866 convenience stores throughout North America, including 8,629 stores with fuel. Its North American network consists of 19 business units, including 15 in the United States covering 48 states and four in Canada covering all 10 provinces. In addition, through CrossAmerica Partners LP, Couche-Tard supplies road transportation fuel under various brands to approximately 1,300 locations in the U.S.
In Europe, Couche-Tard operates a broad retail network across Scandinavia, Ireland, Poland, the Baltics and Russia through 10 business units. As of April 28, Couche-Tard's European network comprised 2,709 stores.
In addition, under licensing agreements, more than 2,150 stores are operated under the Circle K banner in 15 other countries and territories, which brings the worldwide total network to more than 16,000 stores.