5 Chains With Plans to Expand … and to Compete

By 
Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

Time for Expansion

CHICAGO -- Several major convenience-store retailers are among the chains moving ahead with growth plans for 2017, according to recent reports and announcements. That growth also signals competitive activity in new and core markets, sometimes running counter to a company's traditional retail strategy as they take on rivals.

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1. Stewart's Shops

Stewart's Shops

Stewart’s Shops has approximately 335 stores in New York and Vermont. Last year, it spent $50 million on new shops and remodeling projects and has similar plans for 2017. This growth consists of 20 projects, both new sites and replacements of existing stores and 20 major remodels, spokesperson Maria D’Amelia told the Saratogian.

The company is targeting new upstate Capital Region locations, and from the lower Hudson Valley to central New York.

“We look at each shop location individually to determine what the needs are,” D’Amelia said. “Do we see a need to grow, in size and/or product offerings, to meet the needs of our customers? Or redesign the flow of a shop to make the shopping experience easier? When it comes to a brand-new location, is it somewhere we can fill a gap?”

2. Casey’s General Stores

Casey’s General Stores

Casey’s General Stores Inc. opened up a store in Verdigris, Okla., in January, adding a fourth location to the chain’s presence in what it considers to be a growth market, reported the Tulsa World.

Verdigris is in the Tulsa market, home base of QuikTrip. And Casey's has built stores in nearby Jenks and Broken Arrow, Okla. Those stores are somewhat uncommon in the Casey’s footprint—the brand typically chooses towns with populations of about 5,000 people. Verdigris fits that mold with a population of about 4,200. The chain also has a store in nearby Skiatook, Okla.

“We tend to focus more on a little more of a rural setting,” James Pistillo, Casey’s vice president of accounting, told the newspaper. “Towns with 5,000 people or less tend to be in our wheelhouse, but we do have opportunities where generally speaking that we’re looking at a different style and a different business model than QT. I don’t know that that can’t coexist.”

Casey’s has approximately 1,930 c-stores to QuikTrip’s approximately 750 c-stores.

QuikTrip typically focuses on urban areas in big cities and doesn’t often cross paths with Casey’s, the report said.

Pistillo noted QuikTrip’s presence in Casey’s home market in Iowa. “They’re in our backyard here in Des Moines,” he said.

Meanwhile, Casey’s new distribution center in Terre Haute, Ind., is already helping it expand eastward.

3. 7-Eleven

7-Eleven

In an agreement that signals growth in Pennsylvania, retail leasing broker R.J. Brunelli & Co. LLC announced earlier this month that 7-Eleven Inc. has expanded its representation agreement with the firm from five New Jersey counties to include Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania.

The chain is seeking 2,800- to 3,000-square-foot freestanding or end-cap units with a 25-foot minimum width, said Brunelli Senior Sales Associate Patti Fiore AmecAngelo, who serves as the firm's account manager for Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven. Freestanding suburban locations must have a 12,000-square-foot minimum lot size with room for at least 10 parking spaces in front of the store. Suburban sites must be situated along roads with a minimum daily traffic count of 15,000 vehicles. It prefers signalized intersections, along with the ability to operate a 24-hour store.

It will also consider walk-up locations in busy, downtown urban markets with high pedestrian counts and nearby mass transit, she said.       

Old Bridge, N.J.-based Brunelli & Co. serves as exclusive broker for more than 40 retail properties in New Jersey. The firm also serves as exclusive or preferred tenant representative for approximately 20 retail, restaurant and service chains.

4. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores

After a record-breaking 2016, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. is looking to top itself with plans to open 50 or more stores in 2017. The family-owned chain, with headquarters in Oklahoma City, opened 47 new locations in 2016—the most new-store openings in a year for the company.

Love’s communication specialist Kealey Dorian announced the company’s plans to open 50 or more stores in 2017 during a YouTube interview with Tom Love, founder and executive chairman.

“It wasn’t too long ago that we thought we were running out of space,” Love said. “We used to have a rule of thumb about the gap between stores being 100 miles or more in the same quarter.”

But as the number of trucks on the road increase, that school of thought is changing. 

“That’s coming down to 50 or 60 [miles], and in some cases, much tighter that that, like 50 feet in Van, Texas,” Love said. “We built a brand-new store in Van, Texas, right across the street from a very successful but older location that was becoming overwhelmed, and it’s been a killer.”

The chain currently has 349 Travel Stops and 62 Country Stores.

5. Cumberland Farms

Cumberland Farms

Cumberland Farms is expanding into upstate New York, which is home to Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based Stewart’s Shops, reported the Saratogian. Cumberland Farms has won approval to build a new c-store in Wilton, N.Y.

The retailer said it expects the nearly 5,000-square-foot c-store with gasoline to open in September. It will cost an estimated $4.5 million.

“Coffee and gas go hand in hand in the morning,” Ross Gallaway of First Hartford Corp., Cumberland Farms’ local development partner, told the newspaper. “It’s the same strategy as Stewart’s.”

This is the company’s second foray into the Saratoga marketplace. It has an existing store in Milton, N.Y. It also has six other projects in various stages of planning or approval in the Capital Region from Brunswick to Rotterdam, said the report.

Cumberland Farms has approximately 550 c-stores in New York, as well as in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

It recently moved its headquarters from Framingham, Mass., to a newly renovated office, distribution center and culinary center in Westborough, Mass. The structure covers 13 acres and has a 28,000-square-foot freezer and refrigeration center, reported the Worcester Business Journal.