Holiday, Kwik Trip Have Lock on Eau Claire Market

University of Wisconsin study finds two chains account for more than half of city's stations

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- A study of the gasoline market in Eau Claire, Wis., found that Holiday Stationstores and Kwik Trip account for more than half of the city's convenience stores, reported The Leader-Telegram.

Although University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire researchers are unveiling their complete findings Dec. 12 at a public meeting, assistant professor of geography and anthropology Ryan Weichelt commented for the newspaper on some of the study's observations.

"We tend to be dominated by Holiday and Kwik Trip more than other places," he told the paper.

Other stations in Eau Claire include Mobil, BP, Cenex and Exxon, said the report.

Holiday Stationstores, Bloomington, Minn., has 468 gasoline c-stores located throughout 10 states in the northern tier region of the United States.

La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip operates a chain of 372 Kwik Trip, Kwik Star (in Iowa) and Kwik Trip Travel Center locations throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The researchers monitored wholesale and retail gasoline prices in 10 medium-sized Midwest cities during the summer. In addition to Eau Claire, they tracked prices for Wausau, Hudson and Stevens Point, Wis.; Albert Lea, Mankato and St. Cloud, Minn.; and Ames, Iowa City and Mason City, Iowa.

They found that Eau Claire's concentration of stations between two chains was different from the other cities, which generally had a greater variety of merchants, Weichelt said.

"Wisconsin is higher in general because of the minimum markup law," he said. Wisconsin's state gas taxes also are higher than Iowa and Minnesota.

The study did not look for illegal collusion between merchants, which residents have claimed is a reason why gasoline prices in Eau Claire are often uniform, the report said.

"We're not going after anybody," Weichelt said. "We're just trying to educate the public on what's going on."

The City Council requested a formal state Department of Justice investigation into Eau Claire's gasoline prices in February 2011.

The study was conducted by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students in the Geography & Anthropology Department and Economics Department, under the direction of Weichelt and assistant professor of economics Laura Middlesworth.