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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- "Convenience, convenience, convenience: Consumers continue to vote for their channel preferences through their spending behaviors, and convenience matters," said Todd Hale, Nielsen Co.'s senior vice president, Consumer & Shopper Insights.
Consumers now have more places to find convenience, as the U.S. convenience store count increased to a record 148,126 stores, as of Dec. 31, 2011 -- a 1.2 percent increase of 1,785 stores from the prior year, according to the latest NACS/Nielsen Convenience Store Count, released today.
"With a store count nearly four times greater than the next closest competitive retail channel, the convenience store channel continues to outpace all other consumer packaged goods channels in terms of store expansion," Hale continued.
According to Nielsen TDLinx, as of Dec. 31, the total count of c-stores is 30,000-plus locations greater than the cumulative totals of competing channels, including supermarkets (32,924 stores), drugstores (38,526 stores), dollar stores (22,782 stores) and superettes (13,234 stores).
Looking to this year, the Convenience Store News 2012 Industry Forecast Study has predicted an increase of 1.2 percent, to an average of 148,373 stores open for business over the 12-month period. CSNews uses the Nielsen TDLinx store count figures as the basis for its sales calculations in both its annual Industry Forecast Study and annual Industry Report.
"The continued growth in store count shows our industry is vibrant and adding jobs in difficult economic times. Convenience stores are an essential part of the fabric of everyday life across the country and our core offer of convenience continues to resonate with customers," said NACS Chairman Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Oil in Santa Clara, Calif.
The 2011 increase marks the second year in a row of store-count gains, after two years of slight declines. NACS and Nielsen define convenience stores as stores that include a broad merchandise mix, extended hours of operation and a minimum of 500 stock-keeping units (SKUs).
NACS noted that there is now one convenience store per approximately every 2,100 U.S. residents.
Other highlights of the count, according to NACS, are:
• Overall, 81.7 percent of convenience stores sell motor fuels. A total of 120,950 convenience stores sell motor fuels, a 3.1-percent increase (3,653 stores) over last year. The growth of convenience stores selling motor fuels is outpacing overall growth in the industry.
• The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, accounting for 62.9 percent of stores (93,209 stores total). The growth of one-store operations again outpaced the overall growth in store count. The industry increased by 1.2 percent, while the number of one-store operations increased by 1.5 percent. The states with highest percentage of one-store operations are Washington (78 percent), Georgia (78 percent), Alabama (76 percent), Connecticut (73 percent) and Mississippi (72 percent). In Washington, D.C., 80 percent of convenience stores are single-store operations.
• Texas (at 14,766 stores) once again was the state with the most convenience stores, followed by California (10,763 stores) and Florida (9,510 stores). New York was fourth with 7,929 c-stores and Georgia fifth, with 6,535. The bottom three states in terms of store count are Alaska (194 stores), Delaware (340) and Wyoming (347).
• Five states had store counts grow at a rate that was more than double the national average: New Jersey (3.3-percent growth), Alaska (3.2 percent), Massachusetts (2.7 percent), Oregon (2.7 percent) and New York (2.6 percent). Growth in Washington, D.C., was 2.9 percent.
• Convenience stores especially serve as the one-stop shop for food and fuels in states that are dominated by small towns. Virtually all convenience stores sell fuel in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming (97 percent of stores).
• The states with the lowest percentage of stores selling fuel either have full-service fueling mandates (New Jersey and Oregon) or are in the Northeast where many stores were built before the early 1970s when motor fuels sales at convenience stores began to flourish. The five states with the lowest percentage of convenience stores that sell motor fuels are New Jersey (48 percent), Massachusetts (55 percent), New York (58 percent), Rhode Island (62 percent) and Oregon (65 percent). Only 41 percent of stores in Washington, D.C., sell motor fuels.