Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is big—and judging by its five-year “Double Again” strategy, which aims to double the financial performance of the company by 2023, it is nowhere near done growing.
Couche-Tard ranks No. 2 in CSP's Top 202, with nearly 8,400 U.S. sites out of approximately 9,800 locations in North America and about 2,700 in Europe. Its net earnings in fiscal 2019 hit $1.8 billion, up 9.8% from the year prior.
“In fiscal 2020, we will continue along that trajectory, focusing on organic growth, positioning the company for future acquisitions, improving the customer journey in our stores and fuel courts, preparing for advances in technology and mobility and growing and training our employee base,” Alex Miller tells CSP via email. Miller joined Couche-Tard in 2012 as director of fuels for real estate and facilities after 16 years with BP in a variety of operational, supply, business development and strategy roles.
Growth has been decidedly broad. In 2017, the company acquired Holiday Stationstores, with more than 500 stores in the Midwest, and CST Brands, which has more than 2,000 locations in the Southwest, Southeast and East. Most recently, Couche-Tard made an unsolicited bid of $5.8 billion to purchase Caltex Australia Ltd. and its approximately 1,900 sites. It would be its biggest acquisition in its history.
“We are looking for opportunities that enhance our geographical reach, fit into our culture and align with our strategic growth plans,” Miller says. “We will continue to be disciplined in our pursuit of acquisitions and take advantage of our footprint, which gives us unique capacity to look at opportunities globally.”
A key component of the company’s Double Again strategy is a ramp-up of its new-to-industry store initiative. Couche-Tard is looking to pick up the pace of site identification, permit time frames and approval processes, “as well as align more concisely around core buildings and materials to construct stores faster and more economically, all the while making the most efficient use of capital,” Miller says.
The company will also continue to rebrand all of its c-stores outside of Quebec to Circle K. That process is 100% complete in Europe and nearly 80% complete in North America. It is also bringing Circle K branded fuel to more locations.
So when does Couche-Tard hit the brakes on global growth? It’s not a question of when but if, Miller says.
“We do not have an ideal size or number,” he says. “Over the last 40 years, the company has grown from a single store to nearly 16,000 in 27 countries; however, the focus has always remained on the customer. ... As long as we can keep doing that, improving and innovating along, we will continue to grow.”