Susser 'Ready to Grow '

Chain looks to fill in current markets with new-store builds and acquisitions

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Susser Holdings Corp. is in the process of building six stores, and is anxiously looking at other opportunities for growthincluding acquisition.

"We have really strengthened our balance sheet, our liquidity, our systems and our management team, and we feel ready to grow," said Sam Susser, president and CEO, during a second-quarter earnings call with investors yesterday.

The company is currently looking for "the right fit, the right group of assets and people." Susser said financing will depend on the type of opportunity, but the company has [image-nocss] strong relationships with capital providers in high-yield markets, institutional real-estate markets and others. "So we'll try to be disciplined and we'll use probably a variety of sources of capital to meet any future opportunities that are out there."

The company also plans to accelerate its rebranding of Town & Country stores, which it acquired in 2007. With 55 store left to rebrand to the Stripes logo, the company hopes for completion by the end of the first quarter next year. In a previous conference call, the company said it saw a 20% sales improvement in converted stores vs. non-converted stores.

Susser attributes part of that growth to the company choosing to rebrand first in the "oil patch" areas. "There's so many more people employed in the oil patch today than there were a year ago that it's kind of a rising tide that's lifting the boat, and we're grateful to enjoy that ride."

Susser said the average cost per store rebranding is about $210,000, and once the rebranding is completed, it will free up funds for growth.

About new stores, Susser said they produce cash flow that is typically about three times the cash flow of stores built more than 10 years ago. "So every new store does give us a nice tailwind," he said. The capital needed per new store ranges from $2.5 million to $3 million, with some exceptions.

When asked if the company is looking at new markets, Susser said, "Our focus on our new-store growth is backfilling existing markets and taking advantage of the land bank of properties that we own, and we have a large number of properties in negotiation."

For a complete report on Susser Holdings' quarterly earnings, see related story elsewhere in this issue of CSP Daily News.

Corpus Christi, Texas-based Susser Holdings Corp. is a third-generation, family-led business that operates 521 convenience stores in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma primarily under the Stripes and Town & Country banners. Restaurant service is available in more than 300 of its stores, primarily under the proprietary Laredo Taco Co. and Country Cookin' brands. The company also supplies branded motor fuel to more than 390 independent dealers through its wholesale fuel division.