Casey's Ozark Opening

Retailer enters Arkansas, sets sights on additional states

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

ANKENY, Iowa -- Casey's General Stores Inc. has opened its first location in the state of Arkansas, in Bella Vista, just across the state line from Missouri, with a second slated to open within the next few weeks. The Midwestern chain now has convenience stores in 11 states, and it plans to make a push into Kentucky, Tennessee and possibly Michigan.

"We've been in the process for a while to penetrate the state of Arkansas, and this is the first step in that," Bill Walljasper, senior vice president and chief financial officer, told CSP Daily News. "It's a brand-new [image-nocss] store that we built. It's our new store design--a little bit larger format than our average store."

He also said that within a couple of weeks, the company will be opening its second store in Arkansas, in Springdale, also in the northwestern part of the state. "We also have plans for numerous other stores that we've identified sites for in the Arkansas area. It's certainly a state that we believe would be very good for us to step into and have relationships with the communities."

Walljasper added, "We are also looking for opportunities in western Kentucky and western Tennessee."

Casey's has celebrated a spate of grand re-openings and grand openings in several states in recent weeks. (Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage.)

Growth is still on the menu at Casey's. "We are building stores, we're acquiring stores," he said. "The end of this week will be the end of our fiscal year, so we're busy pulling our yearend financials together and starting the whole annual report proxy process, as well as developing our goals for the next year.

Last June, Casey's executives detailed the company's growth plans. They said that for the fiscal year, they set store growth of 4% to 6%, or 60 to 90 stores. "In addition, we plan to replace 20 stores and perform 20 major remodels, all incorporating the features of our successful new-store design," Walljasper said at the time, noting that the company also planned to remain opportunistic. "The company remains well-positioned to increase its store capacity and may revisit our store expansion goal during the year as opportunities present themselves."

Key to Casey's growth goals are plans to expand into new markets and states, they added. For more than a year, the company has reviewed contiguous markets in Arkansas, Michigan and Tennessee.

"We have four or five under contract [in Arkansas], that's certainly an area we're penetrating.... There are quite a few rural, Midwest-type communities [in northern Arkansas], and through them we think there's a lot of opportunity having gone down there and looked at the level of competition, as well as the opportunity for penetration of the c-store saturation in general," he said.

Casey's also has brought in additional help to speed the growth process. "In anticipation and in movement to ramp up store growth...we've actually quadrupled the number of outside realtors to assist in bringing sites, not only for new-store construction, but also acquisitions, to the table," Walljasper said at the time.

Casey's stores supply self-service gasoline, made-from-scratch pizza and donuts, sandwiches, hot and cold beverages, grocery items and more.

Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's has approximately 1,620 stores in 11 Midwestern and Great Plains states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and now Arkansas. Most Casey's stores operate in towns with populations of less than 5,000.