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More 24-Hour Sites Coming for Casey’s General Stores

Execs note strategy not right for every location

ANKENY, Iowa -- The hours are adding up for Casey’s General Stores--in a good way. Since the chain of convenience stores began increasing the hours of operation for many of its stores--some of them to 24 hours a day--the company has seen strong same-store sales growth. So much so that executives ascribe about 26% EBITDA growth in the third quarter of its fiscal 2012 to a combination of the new hours and the chain’s store-remodel program.

“Expanded hours is a very strong initiative,” CFO Bill Walljasper said on a recent earnings conference call. “We’re in the process of identifying more stores to convert to 24 hours. We’ll look to do that next fiscal year and continue to roll that program out.”

In the past 12 months, Casey’s has moved 220 stores to the 24-hour schedule, including 150 sites converted since Jan. 1.

“We now have approx 18% of our store base operating 24 hours,” Walljasper said of the 1,686-store chain.

But, he said, reviewing store hours of operation isn’t exactly new for Casey’s.

“We’ve been tinkering with our core hours for some time,” he said. “Our core hours are typically 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. In some places we’ve expanded that to 5:30 to 11:30 or 5 to midnight. We have significantly more stores on extended hours than the 220 stores that we converted over the last 12 months to 24 hours.”

But don’t expect every Casey’s General Store to make the change any time soon.

“It’s probably not applicable to all of our stores, but we’re going to find out where it is applicable,” Walljasper said. “It’s a pretty easy transition and an easy transition back if it doesn’t work.”

One criterion that’s been consistent is that the 24-hour sites work better in higher-population areas, an ironic realization for a chain that prides itself on serving towns with average populations of 5,000 or so.

“Most of the conversions that we have done have been in the higher-populated areas and centered around a higher traffic pattern,” Walljasper said. “A small community probably doesn’t warrant having a store open for 24 hours. That doesn’t mean we can’t expand those hours to meet the demand in that region. That’s the key criteria that we’re looking at: the population and the traffic counts surrounding those stores.

Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores operates 1,686 convenience stores in 11 states.

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