Convenience Store Count Knocking on 150,000

NACS/Nielsen tally finds 149,220 locations, with more adding fuel

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The U.S. convenience store count increased to a record 149,220 stores as of Dec. 31, 2012, a 0.7% increase (1,094 stores) from the year prior, according to the 2013 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count.

The convenience retailing industry has seen remarkable growth over the last three decades. At yearend 1982, the store count was 76,200 stores, at yearend 1992 the store count was 100,800 stores and at yearend 2002 the store count was 132,400 stores.

The growth of c-stores selling motor fuels was nearly triple the overall growth in the industry, as fuels retailers added convenience operations and convenience retailers added fueling operations. Overall, 82.6% of c-stores (123,289 stores) sell motor fuels, a 1.9% increase (2,339 stores) over last year.

The states with the lowest percentage of stores selling fuel either have full-service fueling mandates (New Jersey and Oregon) or are in the Northeast where many stores were built before the early 1970s when motor fuels sales at c-stores began to flourish. The five states with the lowest percentage of c-stores that sell motor fuels are New Jersey (54.5%), Massachusetts (57.1%), New York (59.6%), Oregon (66.4%) and Rhode Island (67.2%). Only 44.3% of stores in Washington, D.C., sell motor fuels.

C-stores account for 34.8% of all retail outlets in the United States, according to Nielsen, which is significantly higher than the U.S. total of other retail channels including drug stores (40,727 stores), supermarkets (33,192 stores) and dollar stores (24,075 stores).

The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, which now account for 62.9% of all c-stores (93,819 stores total), an increase of 0.7% over last year. There also continues to be bifurcation within the industry. The only other company size that experienced growth was stores owned by companies with 500-plus stores. That total is now 21,738 stores, an 8.9% increase over last year.

The states with highest percentage of one-store operations are Washington (76.3%), Georgia (76.7%), Alabama (73.9%), Louisiana (72.8%) and Connecticut (72.2%). In Washington, D.C., 77.6% of c-stores are one-store operations.

U.S. Convenience Stores (as of 12/31/12)

2013: 149,220 (+0.7% over previous year)

2012: 148,126 (+1.2%)

2011: 146,341 (+1.2%)

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%)

Top States for Convenience Stores (as of 12/31/12):

1. Texas: 14,920 stores

2. California: 10,916

3. Florida: 9,571

4. New York: 7,989

5. Georgia: 6,626

6. North Carolina: 6,274

7. Ohio: 5,374

8. Michigan: 4,866

9. Illinois: 4,582

10. Virginia: 4,482

Several states had store counts grow at a rate of 2% or more: Alaska (4.1%), Hawaii (2.7%), Utah (2.6%), Delaware (2.4%), Maryland (2.3%), Oregon (2.2%) and Wyoming (2.0%). Growth in Washington, D.C., was 3.4%

"Our continued growth shows that our core offer of convenience resonates with customers, whether a fillup, quick snack or drink or for fill-in groceries or takeout meals for time-starved consumers," said NACS chairman Dave Carpenter, president and CEO of Denver-based J.D. Carpenter Cos. Inc.

C-stores especially serve as the one-stop shop for food and fuels in states that are dominated by small towns. There are five states in which 95% or more of the c-stores also sell fuel: Kansas and Iowa (both 95.5%), Wyoming (95.8%), North Dakota (96.7%) and Nebraska (96.8%)

The U.S. population on Dec. 31, 2012, was an estimated 315 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means there is one convenience per approximately every 2,100 residents.

Nielsen calculations are based in part on data reported by Nielsen for the period ending Dec. 2012 through its TDLinx service for retail channels. Nielsen determines its c-store count using the store definition that requires stores to include a broad merchandise mix, extended hours of operation and a minimum of 500 stock-keeping units (SKUs), among other factors.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 149,000 stores across the country, posted $681 billion in total sales in 2011, of which $486 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,200 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies that do business in nearly 50 countries.