CST Challenging Couche-Tard 'On Any Corner'

Ultramar to take on rival in Canada with private-label brands, new stores

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

CST Brands Ultramar Couche-Tard (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

MONTREAL -- The Ultramar convenience store chain is looking to challenge rival c-store retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. by adding hundreds of private-label brands currently sold in the United States and building new stores in Ontario and Quebec, reported the Canadian Press.

"I think we can compete with Couche-Tard at any corner," Kim Bowers, chairwoman and CEO of CST Brands Inc., told the news agency.

The San Antonio, Texas-based company is the second-largest publicly traded fuel and convenience retailer in North America after Couche-Tard, with 1,900 outlets in the United States and Canada, including 278 corporate stores in Canada and arrangements with nearly 500 dealers.

But it lags far behind its Laval, Quebec-based rival, posting $12.8 billion (U.S.) of revenues last year, compared with $35.5 billion by Couche-Tard, including $5 billion in Canada and $19.4 billion in the United States, said the report.

CST plans to invest $60 million this year and add eight new Depanneur du Coin and Ultramar retail locations and 15 dealers, CP said.

Bowers conceded that the company has a long way to go to catch up with Couche-Tard, which operates more than 6,200 stores in North America, including some 1,900 in Canada.

"They are certainly a well-run company and their stores are well run. [But] I think our stores are very competitive and what we have to offer, consumers are looking for," she said in an interview with the news agency.

She said the company's focus is growing the number of customer visits by expanding its offering of fresh food and private-label products like a new sports drink and signature fresh-baked kolaches and whoopie pies.

"Today we service over 500 million customers every year, and I'd like to see that double and triple in the next five years," Bowers told the news agency.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers