U.S. C-store Count Reverses Two-Year Decline

ALEXANDRIA, Va., and NEW YORK -- The number of U.S. convenience stores grew 1.2 percent over the past year and stands at 146,341 as of December 31, 2010, according to the NACS/Nielsen TDLinx 2011 Convenience Industry Store Count, released today.

This increase in the NACS/Nielsen TDLinx 2011 Convenience Industry Store Count reversed a rare two-year drop in the store count and is the highest number of stores ever recorded, eclipsing the 146,294 stores from the 2008 count.

"The increase in store count shows that the interruption of service in many areas, caused by many traditional fuel-based operators exiting the industry, is turning around, said NACS Vice Chairman of Research Fran Duskiewicz, who is also senior executive vice president of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc., based in Canastota, N.Y. "Those locations are now in the hands of capable retailers who see the consumer demand and are willing to fill it."

"Despite some industry pressures, the convenience store count has grown dramatically since 2001," said Todd Hale, Nielsen’s senior vice president, Consumer & Shopper Insights. "That said, the convenience store industry is widely fragmented, and we expect to see more consolidation as big-box retailers and some supermarket chains continue to add gas pumps to their sites."

With the U.S. Census Bureau data showing the U.S. population at 308.7 million, there is one convenience per approximately every 2,100 residents. NACS’ 2009 sales data shows that convenience store sales were $511 billion, or one of every 28 dollars spent in the country in 2009.

The convenience retailing industry has seen remarkable growth over the last three decades. In 1981, the store count was 67,500 stores, in 1991 the store count was 105,800 stores and in 2001 the store count was 119,800 stores. The NACS/TDLinx store count is also used as the basis for the Convenience Store News Industry Report and the Convenience Store News Industry Forecast Study.

According to the data, a total of 117,297 convenience stores sell motor fuels, a 1.7 percent increase over last year. The increase in the number of stores selling fuel (1,957 stores) was greater than the increase in overall store count (1,800 stores), with the remainder being convenience-only stores that added fueling or gas stations that added convenience operations. Overall, 80.2 percent of all convenience stores sell motor fuels.

The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, accounting for 62.7 percent of stores. The growth of one-store operations mirrored the overall growth in store count. The industry increased by 1,800 stores overall, the number of one-store operations increased by 1,766.

Texas once again led in terms of overall stores, with 14,466 stores, nearly one-tenth of all U.S. convenience stores. California was ranked number two in store count at 10,581, followed by Florida at 9,348.

Convenience stores also outnumber the cumulative total stores count from competing channels in the United States. According to Nielsen TDLinx, as of December 31, 2010, there were 36,149 supermarkets, 37,409 drug stores and 28,326 mass merchandiser/dollar stores.

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