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C-Store Count Hits Record

However, 23 states saw declines in units

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The U.S. convenience-store count increased to a record 154,535 stores as of Dec. 31, 2016, a 0.2% increase (340 stores) from 154,195 as of Dec. 31, 2015, according to the annual NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count.

“Nielsen data shows that the U.S. convenience-store channel continues to be an industry of opportunity," said Rob Hill, executive vice president of retail services for Nielsen. “The current consumer climate has created favorable conditions for c-store sales growth, contributing to a positive long-term outlook."

Texas continues to lead in state c-store count with 15,671 stores. The rest of the top 10 states for convenience stores are California (11,774), Florida (9,930), New York (8,570), Georgia (6,761), North Carolina (6,306), Ohio (5,635), Michigan (4,833), Pennsylvania (4,787) and Illinois (4,737).

Overall growth in the channel was fairly small during 2016. Twenty-three states experienced declines in total store count from the prior year.

The bottom three states in terms of store count are Alaska (217 stores), Delaware (348) and Wyoming (354).

The U.S. c-store count has increased by 63% over the past three decades. At year-end 1986, the c-store count was 95,000 stores; at year-end 1996, it was 104,600 stores; and at year-end 2006, it was 145,119 stores.

Within the retail industries that Nielsen tracks, c-stores account for more than one-third (34.1%) of all outlets in the United States. The c-store count alone is 25% higher than the combined store counts of superettes, supermarkets and supercenters (51,191), drug stores (43,636) and dollar stores (28,832).

Overall, 80.1% of c-stores (123,807) sell motor fuels, a decrease of 0.6% (or 567 stores) from 2015, with the single-store motor-fuel segment dropping by 604 stores.

“This decline could be something to watch: It’s likely that some stores have stopped selling gas for reasons such as the cost of PCI compliance, competition from quick-service restaurants (QSRs), as well as industry consolidation,” said Bob Swanson, director of research and statistics for NACS.

The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, which account for 63.1% of all c-stores (97,504 stores total) and 42.6% of store growth in 2016.

A small operator himself, NACS 2016-17 Chairman Rahim Budhwani, CEO of Hoover, Ala.-based 6040 LLC, said, "Our continued annual growth in store count shows that our industry’s core offer of convenience strongly resonates with time-starved customers, while our channel continues to innovate with new formats and offers to stay relevant and vibrant.”

Alexandria, Va.-based NACS, founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, has 2,100 retailer and 1,750 supplier members from more than 50 countries.

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