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    CSNews Exclusive: Top Chains Continue Store Growth Through Acquisition Despite Market Turmoil

    Couche-Tard, Cumberland Farms, 7-Eleven and Valero lead list of fastest-growing U.S. convenience store chains.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News

    NEW YORK -- In a year marked by exceptional turmoil in fuel prices and the economy, and overall contraction of total number of stores, some of the nation’s largest convenience store chains managed to pad their store counts through acquisitions, mergers and a little organic growth.

    Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard, which operates the largest number of company-operated stores in the convenience store business, added 319 stores to its U.S. store count over the past 12 months, according to the exclusive CSNews Top 100. Among its acquisitions, the On the Run-branded stores purchased from ExxonMobil earlier this year.

    The second-fastest growing c-store retailer in the U.S. over the past year was Cumberland Farms, which benefited by its merger with Gulf Oil earlier this year. 7-Eleven, the nation’s largest c-store chain in total store count (company-operated plus franchised or licensed stores), added 100 stores to its industry-leading store count of 6,371 units. The Dallas-based retailer ramped up its efforts to convert independent c-stores to the 7-Eleven banner through its new Business Conversion Plan.

    Valero Retail Holdings, which just missed the top 10 in overall store count, was the fourth fastest-growing chain, adding 90 stores, while Landmark Industries, which operates Timewise Stores in Texas, acquired 80 stores from various small independent operators last fall.

    The CSNews Top 100 is the c-store industry’s annual ranking of the largest convenience store chains based on their U.S. store counts. The list is compiled by TDLinx, a sister Nielsen company to CSNews, and the premier industry source of universally accepted store, outlet and account-coding definitions.

    The top 10 convenience store companies remained unchanged from last year, and maintained their same rankings by store count. After 7-Eleven, the next largest c-store chains in the U.S. are: BP (4,686), Shell Oil (4,639), Chevron (3,984) and ExxonMobil (4,144). Alimentation Couche-Tard (3,402), Speedway SuperAmerica (2,783), CITGO (1,898), Sunoco (1,776), and The Pantry (1,648) round out the top 10.

    The total store count for the Top 100 stores declined by 338 units for the 12-month period ended June 30. That 1.2 percent drop mirrors the overall decline in store count the convenience industry experienced last year and continued to suffer during the first half of 2009. As reported by CSNews Online earlier this year, the total number of convenience stores in the U.S. declined by 1,419 stores, or about 1 percent. For the first six months of 2009, the total industry lost another 696 stores or another half a percent so far this year.

    The complete CSNews Top 100 list will be published in the Aug. 10 edition of Convenience Store News.

    Related News:

    Convenience Industry Continues to Shed Stores

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News
    • About Don Longo Don Longo is editorial director of EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News, Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner and Hispanic Retail 360 media brands. He has covered retailing for more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. Previously, he spearheaded the editorial efforts at a variety of business publications focused on mass, drug, grocery and specialty store retailing. Convenience Store News won American Business Media’s Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Issue of the Year in 2008 and 2012. Longo has won numerous other editorial awards over his career and is frequently quoted in the national and local news media on the subjects of retailing and consumer trends.
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