Top Convenience Retailers Embrace 'Smart Growth'

CSPedia unveils its top 25 chains

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

OAK BROOK, Ill. --There was some jostling in the list of CSPedia's top 25 convenience store chains, much of it based on so-called "smart growth" that, while not always the most dramatic, suggests a new tactic being embraced by some of the most successful retailers in the industry.

"'Smart growth' is done for the sake of the company; 'bigger growth' is for the sake of the ego," Jim Fisher, CEO of Houston-based site-analysis firm IMST Corp., told CSP Daily News. "Egos can certainly get in the way of long-term company success."

Retailers who use smart growth not only look for new markets to enter, but also look for existing markets that aren't working for them and determine whether it's best to remodel or exit the market altogether. As such, smart retailers are often building and acquiring new stores, and also remodeling and/or selling existing locations.

A look at the top 25 c-store chains shows that while most of these retailers did grow their store count in the past year, the majority did not grow at dramatic rates; in fact, companies such as Sunoco, Murphy and Hess grew by only one store.

While The Pantry technically decreased its store count by 46 stores since last year's list, the company actually had its first new-store build in four years and also remodeled about 10% (approximately 160) of its locations during that time. QuikTrip, 7-Eleven and Wawa all employ similar grow-and-sell strategies (albeit with more new builds than The Pantry).

"Smart retailers are always looking at new things that they can do to improve an existing site, and they are continually rationalizing their chains to get rid of poorer performers and to reinvest in higher-performing locations," said David Nelson, president of Study Groups/Finance & Resource Management Consultants Inc., Bellingham, Wash.

This year's top 25 chains based on store count:

  1. 7-Eleven Inc.: 8,200
  2. Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (Mac's, Circle K): 5,500
  3. CST Brands Inc. (Valero Energy Corp.): 1,880
  4. Casey's General Stores Inc.: 1,750
  5. The Pantry/Kangaroo Express: 1,572
  6. Speedway LLC (Marathon Petroleum Corp.): 1,463
  7. Hess Corp.: 1,361
  8. BP Products North America (ampm): 1,200
  9. Murphy Oil USA Inc.: 1,130
  10. Sunoco Inc.: 988
  11. Suncor Energy Inc. (Petro-Canada): 900
  12. Kroger Co. Convenience Division: 788
  13. Pilot Flying J: 669
  14. QuikTrip Corp.: 648
  15. (tie) Chevron Corp. (ExtraMile, Caltex): 610
  16. (tie) Wawa Inc.: 610
  17. (tie) Cumberland Gulf Group: 600
  18. (tie) Tesoro Corp.: 600
  19. Susser Holdings Corp. (Stripes): 562
  20. Shell Canada: 507
  21. Husky Energy Inc.: 500
  22. Sheetz Inc.: 440
  23. Kwik Trip Inc.: 435
  24. Kum & Go LC: 430
  25. VPS Convenience Store Group: 421

For a complete analysis of CSPedia's top 25 c-store chains, see the July issue of CSP magazine.

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