C-Store Count Bounces Back

Tops 146,000; record high reverses two-year decline

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The number of U.S. convenience stores grew 1.2% over the past year and stands at 146,341 as of December 31, 2010, according to the annual NACS/Nielsen TDLinx 2011 Convenience Industry Store Count. This increase reversed a rare two-year drop in the 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. Those locations are now in the [image-nocss] hands of capable retailers who see the consumer demand and are willing to fill it," said NACS vice chairman of research Fran Duskiewicz, senior executive vice president of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc., Canastota, N.Y.

"Despite some industry pressures, the convenience store count has grown dramatically since 2001," said Todd Hale, Nielsen's senior vice president of 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 c-store for approximately every 2,100 residents. NACS' 2009 sales data shows that c-store sales were $511 billion, or one of every $28 spent in the country in 2009.

The convenience retailing industry has seen remarkable growth over the last three decades, said NACS. In 1981, the store count was 67,500 stores; in 1991, it was 105,800 stores; and in 2001, it was 119,800 stores.

U.S. C-Stores (as of 12/31 for the previous year) 2011: 146,341 (+1.2% over previous year) 2010: 144,541 (-0.2%) 2009: 144,875 (-1.0%) 2008: 146,294 (+0.8%) 2007: 145,119 (+3.2%) 2006: 140,655 (+1.8%) 2005: 138,205 (+5.8%) 2004: 130,659 (-1.3%) 2003: 132,424 (+6.4%) 2002: 124,516 (+4.0%) 2001: 119,751 (+0.3%)

A total of 117,297 c-stores sell motor fuels, a 1.7% 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% of all c-stores sell motor fuels.

The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, accounting for 62.7% 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. c-stores.

Top States for C-Stores (as of 12/31/10)

Texas, 14,466 stores. California, 10,581. Florida, 9,348. New York, 7,729. Georgia, 6,434 North Carolina, 6,196. Ohio, 5,278. Michigan, 4,828. Illinois, 4,533. Virginia, 4,509.

C-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.

Click herefor more details on the store count.

The Nielsen Co., New York, is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, TV and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related assets.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, Alexandria, Va.-based NACS is the international association for convenience and petroleum retailing.