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01/19/2022

U.S. C-store Count Declines for Fourth Consecutive Year

The dip is driven by a 3.1-percent decrease in single-store operators.
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — For the fourth consecutive year, convenience store counts have declined, primarily driven by a drop in single-store operators.

There are 148,026 c-stores operating in the United States, a 1.5-percent drop in the number of stores from a year earlier, according to the 2022 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count. The industry decline was led by a 3.1-percent decrease in single-store operators, which account for 60.4 percent of all c-stores (89,336 stores).

The decline of single-store operators continues a multi-year trend: single-store operators made up a record 63.2 percent of the industry in 2017. Meanwhile, the percentage of single-store retailers that sell fuel dropped to 54.6 percent in 2021, the lowest since the metric has been tracked in 2005, according to NACS.

Other findings from the 2022 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count include:

Selling Motor Fuels

The newest count shows that 116,641 c-stores sell motor fuels (78.8 percent of all c-stores). There were 4,897 fewer stores selling motor fuels compared to the prior year, but a direct comparison is imprecise because the 2022 store count reflects a slight methodology change for c-stores that sell fuel.

Brick-and-Mortar Declines

The decline in the convenience store count reflects the decline of other retail brick-and-mortar stores except for dollar stores:

  • Convenience: 148,026 (2022) vs. 150,274 (2021)
  • Grocery: 45,687 (2022) vs. 47,066 (2021)
  • Drug: 40,402 (2022) vs. 41,000 (2021)
  • Dollar: 35,501 (2022) vs. 34,215 (2021) 

Decline in Kiosks

In addition, there are "gas station/kiosk" stores that sell fuel but not enough of an in-store product assortment to be considered c-stores. Overall, there were 14,826 kiosks in 2021. The kiosk format continued to decline — down 5.2 percent over the past year and down 32.9 percent over the past six years — as more consumers sought out stores that have robust food and beverage offers.

State Rankings

Texas continues to take the lead in convenience store count, accounting for more than one in 10 stores in the United States.

The top 10 c-store count by state are:

  1. Texas — 15,742 stores
  2. California — 12,053 stores
  3. Florida — 9,400 stores
  4. New York — 7,848 stores
  5. Georgia — 6,448 stores
  6. North Carolina — 5,690 stores
  7. Ohio — 5,537 stores
  8. Michigan — 4,819 stores
  9. Pennsylvania — 4,629 stores
  10. Illinois — 4,623 stores

Texas is the only state in the top 10 that added stores (+47). Meanwhile, New York (-248), Florida (-219) and North Carolina (-200) lost the most stores. Alaska (174) has the fewest stores.

C-store Count Rewind

Despite the fourth straight yearly decline in stores, the overall convenience store count is approximately the same as a decade ago (148,126 stores in 2012). With the U.S. population at 332.4 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is one c-store per every 2,245 people.

"The new store count reflects ongoing changes that are happening in retail as our industry continues to invest in their operations and redefine convenience. Our industry had record in-store sales in 2020 and was equally optimistic about continuing that sales trend in 2021. These opportunities to attract consumers and grow sales require new technologies and often different footprints that were not possible with many of the legacy stores that closed," said NACS Vice Chairman of Research & Technology Chuck Maggelet, who is CEO and chief adventure guide of Maverik Inc., adding that approximately one in seven Maverik stores were remodeled or improved in 2021 and that the company expects to do the same again this year.

The 2022 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count is based on stores in operation as of December 2021.

Alexandria-based NACS advances the role of convenience stores as positive economic, social and philanthropic contributors to the communities they serve. It has 1,900 retailer and 1,800 supplier members from more than 50 countries.