Acquisition pace quickens in 2010, but despite consolidation, top chains still account for nearly 40 percent of industry's total stores
The nation's Top 100 convenience store chains expanded their store counts at a slightly faster pace than the industry at large over the past year, as many of the largest chains ramped up their acquisition strategies. At the same time, this year's Convenience Store News Top 100 illustrates the industry's continued shift from companyoperated to franchisee/licensee-operated stores.
The Top 100 convenience store chains collectively operated 57,784 stores as of May 2010, an increase of 427 stores, or 0.7 percent, from a year ago. Over that period, the total convenience store industry grew 0.3 percent, adding a net total of 389 stores. The Top 100 chains accounted for nearly 40 percent of the total industry store count.
Within the Top 100 chains, the largest companies are increasingly turning to franchising and licensing strategies â a continuation of a years-old strategy. The number of corporate-operated stores in the Top 100 declined by 261 during the past 12 months, while the number of franchised/licensed stores increased by 688. BP North America, which has concentrated on growing its ampm franchised operations, saw the biggest increase in franchised/licensed units over the past year, with a gain of 517. Sunoco, another big oil company that has moved away from company-operated c-stores, added 149 franchised or licensed units.
Among the top 13 companies, all with more than 1,000 total stores, eight are primarily involved with franchising/licensing their brands.
The long-time leader in total stores, 7-Eleven, is also the leader in franchised/licensed outlets. More than 4,800 of its total 6,523 stores are now franchised. 7-Eleven has also been active on the acquisition front this past year. It has grown its store count by a net of 152 stores, including the January acquisition of Norwood, Mass.-based White Hen Pantry and its March acquisition of 16 stores from Mother Hubbard, based in Moline, Ill.
BP, the second-largest convenience store chain in total stores, also has the second-highest number of franchisee/licensee operated stores, at 4,690, or 99 percent of its total store count, followed by Shell, with 4,607 franchised stores, or 99.4 percent of its total. Over the past year, BP sold 43 stores in Chicago to Atlas Oil, and rebranded 246 retail locations in New England to the BP name after reaching an agreement with fuel distributor Green Valley Oil to switch the stations from Getty.
Shell maintained its spot at No. 3 overall on the Top 100 despite reporting a net decline of three units during the past year. In December, the Houston-based company entered into a joint venture agreement with Alimentation Couche-Tard, the Canadian parent company of Circle K, to operate 100 stores in the Chicago area and change them to the Circle K banner. Earlier this year, 96 Shell-branded stations in the Seattle area were sold to Jacksons Food Stores of Meridian, Idaho. Fifty-four of those stores are now company-owned and re-branded to the Jacksons name.
Alimentation Couche-Tard, based in Laval, Quebec, continues to run the largest number of corporately operated stores. The Canadian-based giant operates a total of 3,455 stores in the U.S. â 2,910 of which are corporately operated. In addition to the deal with Shell, Couche-Tard this year began offering franchise opportunities in Florida and acquired eight-store Taylor Oil in Winston-Salem, N.C.
After Alimentation Couche-Tard, the line-up of top corporately operated chains are 7-Eleven (1,708), The Pantry (1,662), Speedway SuperAmerica (1,526), and Casey's General Stores (1,521) â which is currently the target of a highly publicized unfriendly takeover attempt by Couche-Tard.
The second tier of companies â from No. 11 The Pantry to No. 29 Kwik Trip â are dominated by corporately operated convenience store chains.
Among the top 10 chains, the rankings remained the same except for Valero moving up a notch to switch places with The Pantry at No. 10.
The biggest decliners in total store count were ExxonMobil, down 84 net stores, CITGO, down 78, and MAPCO parent Delek US, down 35 stores. Speedway and ConocoPhillips both lost 24 net stores over the past year.
Late last year, ExxonMobil sold 25 Virginia stations to Doswell Ventures, 36 Washington, D.C. and Maryland sites to White Oak Petroleum, and 172 mostly Maryland locations to Uppy's Convenience Stores of Chester, Va. It also sold 29 Virginia locations to Joe Mamo, owner of Capital Petroleum Group.
For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editor-in-Chief, at (646) 654-7489 or [email protected].