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Meet CSNews’ 2017 Top 20 Growth Chains

NATIONAL REPORT — The Convenience Store News Top 20 Growth Chains list is back, and this year, El Paso, Texas-based Western Refining Inc. joins the ranks atop the annual ranking.

The CSNews Top 20 Growth Chains report is based on store count figures provided by TDLinx, a service of Nielsen. This is the sixth year that CSNews has partnered with TDLinx to identify the c-store retailers that added the most convenience stores in the past year.

The period analyzed was January 2016 to January 2017. Wherever possible, the TDLinx numbers were confirmed by the companies. TDLinx defines a convenience store as a store that includes a broad merchandising mix, extended hours of operation, and a minimum of 500 SKUs. Fueling stations with small kiosk stores do not meet the official definition and thus are not reflected in TDLinx’s figures.

The 2017 CSNews Top 20 Growth Chains are:

No. 1 Western Refining Inc.
El Paso, Texas

2017 Store Count: 542
2016 Store Count: 247
Increase: 295 (119.4%)

About the company's growth: Western Refining more than doubled its presence in the convenience channel last year, largely due to its acquisition of Northern Tier Energy LP in late June. The transaction added 170 Midwest convenience stores, primarily under the SuperAmerica banner, to Western Refining's 230 Giant, Mustang, Sundial and Howdy's stores in the Southwest. Northern Tier also supported 114 franchised locations primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin under the SuperAmerica trademark. Western Refining now finds itself on the other end of the equation: Tesoro Corp. is set to close its acquisition of the company in the first half of 2017.


No. 2 GPM Investments LLC
Richmond, Va.

2017 Store Count: 849
2016 Store Count: 672
Increase: 177 (26.3%)

About the company's growth: GPM continues to take the convenience channel by storm, scooping up one regional chain at a time. In 2016, the company closed on several small and mid-sized deals, including 137 convenience stores with fuel and 33 discount tobacco shops in Michigan and Indiana from Admiral Petroleum Co.; the purchase of nearly 70 Apple Market locations in Virginia and Kentucky from Fuel USA LLC; and acquiring 17 locations in Illinois and Missouri from Jiffi Stop Stores.


No. 3 Sunoco LP

2017 Store Count: 2,998
2016 Store Count: 2,875
Increase: 123 (4.3%)

About the company's growth: Sunoco LP, through wholly owned subsidiaries, completed the acquisitions of 18 Valentine Stores locations in upstate New York from Valentine Stores Inc.; and 14 Rattlers c-stores and wholesale fuel supply contracts from Navasota, Texas-based Kolkhorst Petroleum Inc. Sunoco LP then followed these moves by purchasing the c-store assets and wholesale fuel business of Nacogdoches, Texas-based Denny Oil for approximately $53 million. The deal included Denny Oil's Check Point chain that operates throughout East Texas and West Louisiana, its network of company-owned and dealer-operated convenience stores, a commercial fuels and lubricants business, and 126 dealer accounts to which the company supplied branded and unbranded fuel. 


No. 4 CST Brands Inc.
San Antonio

2017 Store Count: 1,167
2016 Store Count: 1,049
Increase: 118 (11.2%)

About the company's growth: CST Brands began 2016 by closing on its planned acquisition of the Flash Foods retail network from Waycross, Ga.-based The Jones Co. and its affiliates. The $425-million transaction added 165 convenience stores in Georgia and Florida to the CST portfolio. The company has been on an expansion path ever since it was spun off from Valero Energy Corp., but the growth has come at a price. CST came under shareholder scrutiny in early 2016 and is now set to be acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.


No. 5 Kwik Trip Inc.
La Crosse, Wis.

2017 Store Count: 553
2016 Store Count: 487
Increase: 66 (13.6%)

About the company's growth: Aggressive expansion into Minnesota with a $40-million investment accounted for a significant portion of Kwik Trip's growth in 2016. Director of Real Estate Hans Zietlow pointed to the "dynamic arteries" that connect across the state as something that made growth in the St. Cloud region a logical step for the company. Over the next few years, Kwik Trip plans to expand its “express” venture, which includes Kwik Trip Express and Kwik Star Express stores, with a goal of having 100 locations in operation. This initiative is currently in Wisconsin and Iowa, but could potentially move into Minnesota.


No. 6 7-Eleven Inc.
Irving, Texas

2017 Store Count: 8,396
2016 Store Count: 8,331
Increase: 65 (0.8%)

About the company's growth: 7-Eleven and its wholly owned subsidiary, SEI Fuel Services Inc., purchased 79 convenience stores in the California and Wyoming markets from CST Brands Inc. for $408 million in July. Seventy-six of the stores are in California, with the remaining three in Wyoming. 7-Eleven sold off the three Wyoming sites, citing a lack of other holdings in the state. But continued growth is on the horizon: Parent company Seven & i Holdings Co. revealed plans to increase its North America footprint to 10,000 c-stores by fiscal year 2019.


No. 7. Croton Holding Co.
Pittsburgh, Pa.

2017 Store Count: 95
2016 Store Count: 33
Increase: 62 (187.9%)

About the company’s growth: In April 2016, Croton Holding acquired Par Mar Oil Co. The deal included 56 convenience stores, several car washes and 16 quick-service restaurants. Croton’s retail operations now span southwestern Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern Kentucky and West Virginia. The company has said it plans to rebrand its existing retail facilities in western Pennsylvania under the Par Mar Stores banner now that the acquisition is completed.


No. 8 C.A.R. Enterprises Inc.
Upland, Calif.

2017 Store Count: 97
2016 Store Count: 41
Increase: 56 (136.6%)

About the company's growth: Anabi Oil Corp.'s C.A.R. Enterprises acquired all of the retail outlets of Rebel Oil Co., which included locations throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Beatty, Boulder City, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah. These convenience stores and gas stations joined the company’s existing network of retail locations in Alaska, Northern California and Southern California. Following the deal, Anabi selected Tesoro Corp.’s Tesoro Refining & Marketing Co. LLC division to sell fuel at the newly acquired sites.


No. 9 Pilot Flying J
Knoxville, Tenn.

2017 Store Count: 652
2016 Store Count: 598
Increase: 54 (9%)

About the company's growth: Pilot Flying J achieved its 2016 growth through a combination of new builds and acquisitions, opening 17 new travel centers and buying 41 Wilco/Speedway locations that were then rebranded as Pilot or Flying J locations. The company plans to continue with this two-part growth strategy in 2017 in order to increase the size of its overall footprint. At the same time, it is launching a five-year, $500-million investment in a chainwide "reimagining" that will modernize locations by updating location exteriors and other features.


No. 10 Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc.
Oklahoma City

2017 Store Count: 416
2016 Store Count: 364
Increase: 52 (14.3%)

About the company's growth: Love's achieved its goal of opening at least 40 new locations in 2016 and then some, marking its largest growth year in the company’s history. In addition to opening new travel stops along interstates, Love's opened stores on state and federal highways to offer service to more areas. The company also expanded its services and amenities in 2016 by adding more than 20 Love's Truck Tire Care facilities and introducing three new restaurant concepts. This year, Love's plans to beat its own record by opening 50 new locations and entering its 41st state with a travel stop in Hardin. Mont.


No. 11 TravelCenters of America LLC
Westlake, Ohio

2017 Store Count: 488
2016 Store Count: 447
Increase: 41 (9.2%)

About the company's growth: Thomas O'Brien, CEO of TravelCenters of America (TA), spoke out against large acquisitions in 2016, citing overly high prices, but the company achieved considerable growth through smaller ones. Its convenience store purchases ranged in size from four stores to 17, and included a buyout of Quality State Oil Co.'s convenience business. Acquired c-stores were rebranded under TA's Minit Mart brand.


No. 12 Casey's General Stores Inc.
Ankeny, Iowa

2017 Store Count: 1,947
2016 Store Count: 1,908
Increase: 39 (2%)

About the company's growth: The April 2016 opening of Casey's second distribution center in Terre Haute., Ind., has allowed the chain to make plans for expansion into new markets, including entrance into its 15th state with a store in Ohio, where it plans to purchase c-stores in small towns. In the past year, Casey’s also made a number of acquisitions, including the five-store Guppy's chain in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; opened multiple new builds and replacement stores; completed major remodels; and transitioned more stores to a 24-hour format.


No. 13 Nouria Energy Corp.
Worcester, Mass.

2017 Store Count: 116
2016 Store Count: 82
Increase: 34 (41.5%)

About the company’s growth: Last year, Nouria Energy experienced its most growth ever in total units for one year, according to Chief Operating Officer Joe Hamza. Two acquisitions drove the increase. In April, the company purchased eight Xpress Stop convenience stores with fuel, two Express Lube auto service stations, three car wash locations, a wholesale fuel supply division, and a transport logistics business from Manchester, Maine-based J&S Oil Inc. Then, in October, Nouria acquired Springfield, Mass.-based F.L. Roberts & Inc., gaining 26 convenience store locations with fuel, including two truck stops, 22 Golden Nozzle car washes, and a diner.


No. 14 Wallis Companies
Cuba, Mo.

2017 Store Count: 66
2016 Store Count: 34
Increase: 32 (94.1%)

About the company’s growth: Wallis Cos. was just two stores shy of seeing a 100-percent increase in store count over the past year. The chain made two acquisitions to grow its footprint by such a sizeable amount. In April, Wallis made a deal with the Schnucks supermarket chain to purchase its Schnucks Express stores in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy, Ill. A few months later, in September, Wallis acquired 13 Dirt Cheap convenience stores, 19 U-Gas convenience stores, one commissary operation, and one undeveloped parcel for future store development from Fenton, Mo.-based U-Gas Holdings Inc. “This is a major milestone in Wallis Cos.’ 48-year history,” President and CEO Lynn Wallis said of the U-Gas transaction.


No. 15 Exxon Mobil Corp. (tie)
Irving, Texas

2017 Store Count: 3,365
2016 Store Count: 3,335
Increase: 30 (0.9%)

About the company's growth: Along with an increase in locations, ExxonMobil's 2016 growth included an expansion of services, including the rollout of Synergy Gasoline, its "most advanced" fuel gasoline manufactured to date, which uses a proprietary additive formulation with seven ingredients that help remove intake valve deposits and improve gas mileage. Exxon's U.S. network also rolled out mobile payment through its Speepdass+ app that integrates loyalty points through the Plenti coalition program with mobile payments, including Apple Pay.


No. 15 Mirabito Energy Products (tie)
Binghamton, N.Y.

2017 Store Count: 102
2016 Store Count: 72
Increase: 30 (41.7%)

About the company’s growth: In August 2016, Mirabito picked up 30 convenience stores and gas stations in New York and Pennsylvania from Global Partners LP. The $40-million transaction included long-term supply contracts for branded and unbranded gasoline and other petroleum products. Concentrated largely in Central New York, Mirabito now owns and operates Mirabito Convenience Stores and Convenience Express locations in two states.


No. 17 Sheetz Inc.
Altoona, Pa.

2017 Store Count: 542
2016 Store Count: 514
Increase: 28 (5.4%)

About the company’s growth: Although Sheetz has expanded beyond its traditional borders, notably heading southbound to North Carolina, the retailer continued to boost its presence in its home state of Pennsylvania in 2016. During the month of December alone, Sheetz opened three new stores in central Pennsylvania: Manheim, Hummelstown-Derry Township, and York. The chain is also making inroads with a new demographic, college students, as it brings its non-gas, fresh food-focused Sheetz Café concept to more university campuses.


No. 18 Holiday Cos. Inc. (tie)

2017 Store Count: 524
2016 Store Count: 497
Increase: 27 (5.4%)

About the company’s growth: Holiday Cos.’ Holiday Stationstores banner grew its footprint in Rapid City, S.D., in 2016 with the opening of a new c-store and gas station at Rushmore Crossing. In all, Holiday Stationstores now has 15 locations in South Dakota, with the majority located in the Sioux Falls area. In addition to South Dakota, Holiday operates in nine other states in the northern tier region of the United States: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Alaska.


No. 18 Wawa Inc. (tie)
Wawa, Pa.

2017 Store Count: 748
2016 Store Count: 721
Increase: 27 (3.7%)

About the company’s growth: Continuing to focus on growth in Florida, Wawa celebrated a milestone with the grand opening of its 100th Sunshine State store in Brandon in November. Wawa plans to open 25 to 30 new stores every year throughout Florida for the next several years. To accommodate Southeast Florida store openings, Wawa recently launched a major hiring campaign looking to fill 400 jobs. In 2016, the chain also opened its 500th fuel store.


No. 20 QuikTrip Corp.
Tulsa, Okla.

2017 Store Count: 746
2016 Store Count: 726
Increase: 20 (2.8%)

About the company’s growth: QuikTrip finds itself in the No. 20 spot on the CSNews Top 20 Growth Chains ranking for the second consecutive year. The retailer added 20 net new stores year over year. In 2016, QuikTrip debuted its first convenience store sans fuel in Atlanta, as well as piloted a drive-thru featuring QT Kitchens at a Tulsa location. 

For our full report on this year’s Top 20 Growth Chains, look in the March issue of Convenience Store News.

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