The Incredible Shrinking Big Oil

As more oil companies divest, c-store chains with a pure retail focus grow

As the Big Oil companies continue to divest or spin off their retail assets, chains with a pure convenience retail focus are growing through acquisitions and new builds.

As in previous years, Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. remains No. 1 on this year's Convenience Store News Top 100 Convenience Stores ranking, adding more than 900 net stores to its U.S. lineup in 2012. The chain's total store count in the United States now stands at 7,760 locations, a net gain of 419 units vs. last year's Top 100 report.

Along with organic growth across multiple metropolitan areas, 7-Eleven has been on an acquisition spree. Its largest deals as of late include the November acquisition of 163 stores in Utah and Texas from TETCO Inc., and its January purchase of 143 Speedy Stop and Tigermarket stores from C.L. Thomas Inc. of Victoria, Texas. Both chains were on last year's Top 100 list — at No. 46 and No. 51, respectively.

Led by 7-Eleven, this year's Top 100 currently operate a total of 59,898 units. Combined, these chains account for 40.1 percent of the convenience industry's 149,220 stores, according to Nielsen TDLinx. In fact, just the top 10 alone represent nearly 24 percent of the industry total, with 35,292 stores.

After 7-Eleven, Shell Oil Products US ranks No. 2 on the Top 100, with 4,950 locations. Shell was the only Big Oil company in the top 10 to show a gain in store count this year, with the addition of 16 stores. BP North America ranks third with 4,504 sites, although the company lost 187 stores year over year.

BP last year announced the withdrawal of the ampm brand from the East Coast. The company plans to own the brand and franchise it to Tesoro Corp. for use in the Southwest. This followed a related announcement of the sale of BP's Carson, Calif., refinery and the ARCO brand to Tesoro, which closed in June.

The remainder of this year's top 10 includes:

4. Chevron Corp.: 3,985 stores; down 72 stores from 4,057 a year ago.

5. Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.: 3,701 stores; up 116 stores from 3,585 a year ago.

6. ExxonMobil Corp.: 3,421 stores; down 25 stores from 3,446 a year ago.

7. Energy Transfer Partners LP: 2,000 stores; up 13 stores from 1,987 a year ago.

8. Casey's General Stores Inc.: 1,735 stores; up 42 stores from 1,693 a year ago.

9. CITGO Petroleum Corp.: 1,668 stores; down 54 stores from 1,722 a year ago.

10. The Pantry Inc.: 1,568 stores; down 47 stores from 1,615 a year ago.

While the rank order of the top six is unchanged from 2012, the rest of the top 10 swapped positions. Energy Transfer Partners (formerly Sunoco Inc.), at 1,987 stores, moved up one spot to No. 7. Casey's General Stores, which ranked No. 11 last year, jumped up three spots to rank No. 8 this year. CITGO moved one slot to No. 9, while The Pantry cracked the top 10 after ranking No. 12 last year.

Looking at the full Top 100, a handful of chains jumped up several spots thanks to impressive growth year over year. Lehigh Gas Corp. went from a No. 66 ranking last year to No. 49 (tie) this year as a result of adding 65 units vs. a year ago. Fikes Wholesale Corp. moved from No. 43 to No. 37 with its growth of 58 locations. Western Refining Corp. went from No. 53 to No. 44 by adding 55 stores. Finally, Gas Mart USA Inc. moved from No. 82 to No. 65 (tie) on account of expanding by 28 stores.

New entrants to this year's Top 100 include: Panjwani Enterprises (No. 87, tie); Dandy Mini Marts Inc. (No. 92, tie); Erickson Oil Products Inc. (No. 98); Johnson Oil Co. (No. 99); and Buchanan Oil Co. (No. 100).

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