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Mergers & Acquisitions

U.S. Convenience-Store Count Dips

Loss of single-store operators drives decline, says NACS
Photograph: Shutterstock

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- There are 153,237 convenience stores operating in the United States, a 1.1% decline from last year’s record of 154,958 stores, according to the 2019 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count. The count is based on stores as of Dec. 31, 2018.

The c-store count has risen 28.3% since 2000. This year marks only the fourth time it has declined during that time.

A 2,198-store decline in single-store operators fueled the decline, said NACS. Single-store operators still account for 62.3% of all c- stores (95,445), it said.

  • Click here for an update on the top 40 c-store chains in CSP’s Top 202 ranking by number of retail outlets.

The c-store count accounts 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 had fewer units at year-end 2018.

Source: NACS
Channel20182017Unit Change% Change
Convenience store153,237154,958(1,721)-1.1%
Grocery49,84251,134(1,292)-2.5
Drug41,83343,169(1,336)-3.1
Dollar31,62030,3321,2884.1
All other brick-and-mortar stores169,107171,347(2,240)-1.3

The number of c-stores that sell motor fuels decreased 0.5% (554 stores) to 121,988 stores, which is 79.6% of all convenience stores. Overall, c-stores sell approximately 80% of the motor fuels purchased in the United States. 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 foodservice offer, as well as retailers embracing new store formats and establishing their brands in more urban, walk-up locations.

Among the states, Texas continues to lead in store count at 15,745 c-stores, or more than one in 10 stores in the country. California is second at 11,930 stores, followed by Florida (9,803), New York (8,550), Georgia (6,698), North Carolina (6,069), Ohio (5,637), Michigan (4,930), Pennsylvania (4,778) and Illinois (4,753). The bottom three states in terms of store count are Alaska (200 stores), Wyoming (352) and Delaware (346).

Looking at the past five years (2013-2018), the top three states—Texas (+554), California (+742) and Florida (+66)—have increased their store count by a combined 1,362 stores, with the growth mostly coming from larger c-store chains with 500 or more stores. The bottom three states (Alaska, Wyoming and Delaware) have remained relatively unchanged.

M&A

A key trend within the U.S. convenience and fuel retailing industry continues to be strong mergers and acquisitions activity, NACS said. Like 2017, the industry experienced historically large M&A deals in 2018, but also saw new entrants to the U.S. market from global companies based in Chile and the United Kingdom, for example.

  • Click here for CSP’s 2018 Year-End Report: Top 6 M&A Stories.

“With expanded competition for the convenience customer and an active M&A environment, retailers increasingly need to up the ante on delivering a quick and exciting shopping experience by investing in their core offer of convenience. With one in seven stores getting remodeled every year at a cost of $400,000, that can put pressure on some stores whether to modernize operations or exit the business,” said NACS Vice Chairman of Research Andy Jones, who is president and CEO of Sprint Food Stores Inc., Wrens, Ga.

“Consumers are redefining what convenience means to them, and as a result, today’s retailers must be extremely tuned in to the wants and needs of the individual consumer,” said Jeff Williams, senior vice president of retail services for Nielsen. “Convenience players will need to continue to seek growth opportunities amid a fiercely aggressive environment, whether that’s through exploration of frictionless payment methods, piloting more efficient retail layouts, expanding private-label programs, increasing foodservice offerings or a move toward building an omnichannel presence. That said, as the value of convenient shopping experiences continues to grow in importance, convenience as a channel must play into its true strengths and optimize to be the retail channel that best serves the needs of on-the-go consumers, on a personal level.”

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