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U.S. Convenience Channel Reaches New High in Store Count

But why has the number of locations selling fuel declined?

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The U.S. convenience-store count increased to a record 154,958 stores as of Dec. 31, 2017, a 0.3% increase of 423 stores from 154,535 in 2016, according to the 2018 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count.

Among the states, Texas continues to lead in c-store count at 15,813 stores, or more than one in 10 stores in the country. California is second at 11,946 stores, followed by Florida (9,891), New York (8,725), Georgia (6,687), North Carolina (6,235), Ohio (5,686), Michigan (4,962), Pennsylvania (4,855) and Illinois (4,759).

The bottom three states in terms of c-store count are Alaska (217 stores), Delaware (344) and Wyoming (355).

Single-store operators within the convenience-retail space also increased by 139 units (0.14%), up from 97,504 stores at year-end 2016 to 97,643 stores at year-end 2017.

Overall, 79.1% of convenience stores (122,552) sell motor fuels, a decrease of 1% (or 1,255 stores) from 2016, with the single-store motor-fuel segment dropping by 1,025 stores. The decline in the number of c-stores selling fuel is reflective of retailers evolving their business models to focus more on the in-store offer and foodservice, as well as retailers embracing new store formats and establishing their brands in more urban locations.

The U.S. convenience-store industry serves about 160 million customers daily—half of the U.S. population—and has sales that are 10.8% of total U.S. retail and foodservice sales, according to NACS.

The convenience-channel store count is significantly higher than other channels of trade, accounting for more than one third (34.4%) of the brick-and-mortar retail universe tracked by Nielsen in the United States. Except for the dollar-store channel, all other major channels have fewer units at year-end 2017 than 2016.

Channel20162017Unit Change% Change
Convenience stores154,535154,9584230.3%

The U.S. convenience-store count has increased by 55% over the past three decades. At year-end 1987, the c-store count was 100,200 stores; at year-end 1997, it was 108,800 stores; and at year-end 2007, it was 146,294 stores.

"Our continued store growth suggests that the convenience and fuel retailing industry’s core offer of convenience continues to resonate with customers,” said Chris Rapanick, director of business development for NACS. “Convenience stores are the destination of choice for the more than 160 million customers who frequent their community convenience store each day to refresh and refuel, whether it’s to grab a quick snack and a beverage or a fresh-prepared meal.”

“Convenience stores saw solid growth in 2017 due to an increased focus on innovation, improved customer experience, assortment variation and healthy investments in food services," said Jeanne Danubio, executive vice president of retail lead markets for Nielsen. “All of these factors have enabled convenience stores to meet the needs of consumers, stretching far beyond the pump. This shift must continue to further expand c-stores' relevance in today's changing retail landscape. As more retailers across channels try to cater to convenience-seeking consumers, c-stores will need to continue to innovate and evolve and grow to stay ahead of the curve.”

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

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