Which Chains Grew the Most in 2017?

By 
Jackson Lewis, Associate Editor

top 202

CHICAGO -- Convenience retail in 2017 was defined by mergers and acquisitions. Industry-altering companies were created or broken up, and this pattern shows no sign of slowing down.

Major deals abounded, and as a result, some of the companies on this year’s Top 202 did not technically exist or did not have any U.S. presence before recent restructuring or acquisitions, notably Andeavor and EG Group. 

Here's a look at the chains that grew the most in 2017 and a snapshot of some of the largest mergers and acquisitions so far in 2018. The 2018 Top 202 represents store counts as of Dec. 31, 2017, and this article reflects that methodology.

1. Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.

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For a second year in a row, Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard acquired more c-stores than any other chain in the United States, most notably through its purchase of Holiday Stationstores in July 2017 and its purchase of CST Brands Inc. in June 2017. In total, Couche-Tard gained 1,114 new stores by the end of the year and held on to its No. 2 slot in the Top 202.

2. 7-Eleven Inc.

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CSP opted to include Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven’s acquisition of 1,030 Sunoco units in this year’s Top 202 even though the deal technically closed after Dec. 31, 2017. The acquisition was so large and influential that the staff at CSP decided to make one exception in this case.

However, it is worth noting that for a short time during the end of 2017, Alimentation Couche-Tard technically owned more locations in the United States than 7-Eleven. It was only after 7-Eleven’s purchase of Sunoco closed in 2018 that the chain regained its No. 1 position as the largest c-store chain in the country.

Counting the Sunoco purchase, divestitures and other deals through the year, 7-Eleven came out of 2017 with 774 additional locations.

3. Kroger Co. Convenience Division (EG Group)

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Cincinnati-based grocer Kroger’s transfer of 762 stores to U.K.-based EG Group closed in April, well after 2018 began, and while the 2017 Top 202 reflected Kroger’s unit count as of Dec 31, 2017, the list makes note of the EG Group purchase.

Technically 762 stores puts EG Group just outside the Top 10 largest chains in terms of store count, but its sudden entrance into the U.S. convenience market marks a huge shift for the industry.

4. GPM Investments LLC

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Richmond, Va.-based GPM Investments stepped from No. 7 to No. 6 on the Top 202 year over year. It did so by closing the deal to acquire Mountain Empire Oil Co. Inc., operating as Roadrunner Markets. The deal included all 92 convenience stores with fuel sales and seven quick-services restaurants. This bumped the chain up to 1,103 units.

GPM operates under a portfolio of brands, including Fas Mart, Shore Stop, Scotchman, Admiral, Breadbox, Young’s, Li’l Cricket, Next Door Store, Village Pantry, Apple Market and Jiffi Stop.

5. Kwik Trip Inc.

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Normally known for organic growth and new stores, La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip acquired Middleton, Wis.-based PDQ Food Stores Inc. and its 34 company-operated sites in Southeastern Wisconsin in 2017.

In total, Kwik Trip grew by 84 units in 2017 and jumped from the No. 15 spot to the No. 13 position in the Top 202 within one year.

6. Casey’s General Stores Inc.

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Casey’s General Stores fueled its 2017 growth through a combination of building new sites and acquiring units. As a result, it came out of 2017 with 81 more stores than the prior Top 202 but remained in the No. 4 spot year over year.

This period of growth comes after Casey’s built a second distribution center in Terre Haute, Ind., in 2016, which was used as a launch pad for more stores to the east.

7. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc.

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Love’s broke its personal growth record in 2016 when it opened 47 stores in one year. The travel-center chain broke its own record again in 2017, ultimately gaining 52 stores.

The Oklahoma City-based chain jumped from No. 22 in the 2016 Top 202 to No. 18 in the most recent list.

8. BW Gas & Convenience Holdings

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BW Gas & Convenience Holdings’ c-store chain Yesway barely qualified for the 2016 Top 202 with 31 locations, landing it at No. 197 on the list. One year and 49 additional locations later, Yesway has leapt to No. 78 in the 2017 Top 202.

Yesway recently passed its 100-store milestone as a part of an 11-store Pick-A-Dilly portfolio transaction. The company aims to become a 500-location chain in select regions of the United States over the next several years.

Honorable Mention: Andeavor Corp.

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Andeavor Corp. is undoubtedly one of the fastest-growing convenience retail businesses of the past two years. But while fast growing, the exact growth of the chain year over year is difficult to assess accurately, as the company was technically Tesoro Corp. until Aug. 1, 2017.

Regardless, Andeavor lands at the No. 7 spot on its first inclusion on CSP's Top 202 with 1,085 locations. The company’s place is especially impressive considering Tesoro was not included in the 2016 Top 202, while Western Refining, a chain it acquired this past year, held the No. 16 spot with 543 locations in 2016.

What’s happened since?

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The 2017 Top 202 reflects c-store unit counts as of Dec. 31, 2017, but the pace of convenience industry mergers and acquisitions has not slowed since then. See below for a quick summary of some of the largest M&A deals in the convenience retail industry since 2018 began:

  • Jan. 4: H&S Energy acquires 50 c-stores from Tower Energy.
  • Jan. 24: 7-Eleven closes its Sunoco deal.
  • April 9: Cal’s Convenience acquires 207 Stripes c-stores that were not already part of the Jan. 24 7-Eleven/Sunoco deal.
  • April 16: Speedway signs agreement to purchase 78 c-store locations held by Petr-All Petroleum.
  • April 20: Kroger closes the sale of 762 c-stores to U.K.-based EG Group.
  • May 16: H&R REIT sold 63 properties to an unnamed buyer for about $633 million.

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