140,655 for 2005

U.S. convenience store count increases by 1.8%, says NACS

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The number of convenience stores in the United States as of Dec. 31, 2005, stands at 140,655, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

The new figure is a 1.8% increase over the 138,205 stores identified at yearend 2004. The increase in stores in 2005 is almost exclusively a result of 1,615 more stores opening than closing in 2005. A total of 8,563 stores opened in 2005, versus 6,948 that closed. C-stores sell the majority of the motor fuels in the United States, and this is reflected in the number of stores [image-nocss] that sell motor fuels112,007 storesor 79.6% of all c-stores, a slight decrease from the 80.2% of stores that sold motor fuels in 2005.

In 2004, when the industry showed a significant 5.7% increase in store count, it was predominantly because existing non-convenience stores evolved to fit the NACS/TDLinx definition of a c-store, which includes a broad merchandise mix, extended hours of operations and a minimum of 500 stock-keeping units (SKUs).

While the increase in store count is smaller than in 2004, it clearly shows that the industry is healthy, since more stores opened than closed in 2005, said Scott Taylor, TDLinx executive vice president and general manager.

Consumer demand for convenience continues, and we see that in the growth of the industry, said Gray Taylor, NACS vice president of research. The slight decrease in stores selling motor fuels probably reflects the evolution of our industry, in finding new locations that don't necessarily support fueling as an option, as well as the continued growth of foodservice in the industry and less reliance on slim motor fuels margins to drive profits.

Ten years ago, the official c-store count stood at 101,100, the first time the industry count topped 100,000 stores; 20 years ago, there were 90,900 stores. And 30 years ago, there were 35,600 c-stores, of which only 20.6% sold motor fuels.

Highlights from the new c-store industry store count include:

Texas remains #1: Texas alone is home to nearly one-tenth of all U.S. c-stores, with 13,884 c-stores in the Lone Star State. The rest of the top 10 states in terms of total stores are: California (9,597 c-stores), Florida (9,090), New York (7,376), Georgia (6,121), North Carolina (6,098), Ohio (4,968), Michigan (4,642), Virginia (4,398) and Illinois (4,378). Georgia leapfrogged North Carolina to land at number five this year as the only change in the top 10 list compared to last year's. The South Atlantic region has most stores: Given that it has four of the states in the top 10, not surprisingly the South Atlantic region (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia) continues to be the region with the most c-stores in the country32,327 stores23% of all U.S. c-stores. More single-store businesses than chain stores: The c-store industry continues to be dominated by small, independent operatorsstores that are owned and operated as a one-store business or franchise. The number of one-store owners now stands at 84,574 stores, 60.1% of all U.S. c-stores. This is a slight drop from the record 61.3% that were cited as one-store operators last year; only five years ago the percentage of one-store operators stood at 50%. Fuel as a traffic driver: Despite shrinking margins, motor fuels operations continue to be an important part of the industry. Texas reported the most stores selling motor fuels11,902 c-stores, or 85.7% of all c-stores in the state, considerably above the national average of 79.6% of c-stores selling motor fuels; however, a number of states have higher percentages of stores selling motor fuels, led by North Dakota (97.1%), Iowa (96.8%), Kansas and Wyoming (both 96.5%) and South Dakota (96.3%). Not surprisingly, the two states that mandate full-service for motor fuels sales had among the lowest percentages of c-stores selling motor fuels. New Jersey had the smallest percentage of c-stores selling fuels (30.1%), and Oregon had the third lowest (51.7%). Other states in the bottom five were Massachusetts (44.8), New York (52.7%) and Hawaii (57.1%).

The store count is based on the c-store universe as defined, tracked and marketed by Wilton, Conn.-based TDLinx, and it is endorsed by NACS.

NACS represents more than 2,200 retail and 1,800 supplier members. The U.S. c-store industry posted $394 billion in total sales in 2004, with $262 billion in motor fuels sales.