CSNews Exclusive: Top Chains Continue Store Growth Through Acquisition Despite Market Turmoil

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CSNews Exclusive: Top Chains Continue Store Growth Through Acquisition Despite Market Turmoil

By Don Longo, Convenience Store News - 08/04/2009
NEW YORK -- In a year marked by exceptional turmoil in fuel prices and the economy, and overall contraction of total number of stores, some of the nation’s largest convenience store chains managed to pad their store counts through acquisitions, mergers and a little organic growth.

Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, which operates the largest number of company-operated stores in the convenience store business, added 319 stores to its U.S. store count over the past 12 months, according to the exclusive CSNews Top 100. Among its acquisitions, the On the Run-branded stores purchased from ExxonMobil earlier this year.

The second-fastest growing c-store retailer in the U.S. over the past year was Cumberland Farms, which benefited by its merger with Gulf Oil earlier this year. 7-Eleven, the nation’s largest c-store chain in total store count (company-operated plus franchised or licensed stores), added 100 stores to its industry-leading store count of 6,371 units. The Dallas-based retailer ramped up its efforts to convert independent c-stores to the 7-Eleven banner through its new Business Conversion Plan.

Valero Retail Holdings, which just missed the top 10 in overall store count, was the fourth fastest-growing chain, adding 90 stores, while Landmark Industries, which operates Timewise Stores in Texas, acquired 80 stores from various small independent operators last fall.

The CSNews Top 100 is the c-store industry’s annual ranking of the largest convenience store chains based on their U.S. store counts. The list is compiled by TDLinx, a sister Nielsen company to CSNews, and the premier industry source of universally accepted store, outlet and account-coding definitions.

The top 10 convenience store companies remained unchanged from last year, and maintained their same rankings by store count. After 7-Eleven, the next largest c-store chains in the U.S. are: BP (4,686), Shell Oil (4,639), Chevron (3,984) and ExxonMobil (4,144). Alimentation Couche-Tard (3,402), Speedway SuperAmerica (2,783), CITGO (1,898), Sunoco (1,776), and The Pantry (1,648) round out the top 10.

The total store count for the Top 100 stores declined by 338 units for the 12-month period ended June 30. That 1.2 percent drop mirrors the overall decline in store count the convenience industry experienced last year and continued to suffer during the first half of 2009. As reported by CSNews Online earlier this year, the total number of convenience stores in the U.S. declined by 1,419 stores, or about 1 percent. For the first six months of 2009, the total industry lost another 696 stores or another half a percent so far this year.

The complete CSNews Top 100 list will be published in the Aug. 10 edition of Convenience Store News.

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