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NEW YORK -- NACS and Convenience Store News’ sister company, Nielsen TDLinx, reported the number of convenience stores in the U.S. declined by 1 percent in 2008, the third time in the past 15 years that the industry has seen a unit count loss. Store count fell in 1994 and in 2003.
The numbers finalize preliminary data first reported by CSNews Online on March 2, when it released the new CSNews Category Management Study, which provided the industry with its first exclusive look at 2008 year-end sales in key product categories.
The number of convenience stores in the U.S. fell to 144,875, as of Dec. 31, 2008, compared to a high of 146,294 a year earlier. The current count also trails the number at the end of 2006 (145,119).
The bulk of the 1,419 unit decline came from mom-and-pop stores, who appeared to suffer disproportionately from last year’s run-up to record high gas prices, followed by the beginning of the worst national recession in many years. These single-store operators still accounted for 62 percent of the entire industry store total, but they also accounted for 1,116 of the store count losses. The total number of single-store operators fell to 89,657.
However, despite the extreme price and profit volatility of motor fuels over the past several years, a consistent 79 percent of all convenience stores still sell gasoline. That percentage has held steady since 2006. (In 2005, 80 percent of c-stores sold motor fuels.)
Gas pumps at convenience stores are more prevalent in some states than others. At least 95 percent of the convenience stores in North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas sell motor fuels. New Jersey (38 percent) and Oregon (59 percent) have the smallest percentage of stores selling motor fuels. These two states also mandate full-service at the pump rather than self-service sales.
Despite last year’s decline, convenience retailing has seen remarkable store growth over the past 30 years, with nearly triple the number of stores today than in 1978 (50,400 stores).
The three states with the highest number of c-stores are Texas (14,112); California (10,298); and Florida (9,303). The three states with the fewest number of convenience outlets are Alaska (198); Delaware (315); and Wyoming (350). According to the CSNews annual Saturation Study, which identifies the most- and least-saturated markets in the country by comparing store counts to population on a market to market basis, the South was the most over-saturated region of the U.S. last year.
The NACS/TDLinx definition of a c-store is a store that includes a broad merchandising mix, extended hours of operation and a minimum of 500 SKUs.
NACS/Nielsen TDLinx also tracks smaller gas station/kiosks, defined as fueling stations with small kiosk stores but do not meet the official NACS/Nielsen TDLinx definition of a c-store. According to TDLinx, there were 19,926 gas station/kiosks in the U.S. as of Dec. 31, 2008, a slight decline from 19,935 a year earlier.
-- CSNews' First Look at 2008 Year-end Category Results -- March 2, 2009
-- Hitting the Wall -- March 30, 2009
-- NACS Offers Members Credit on Nielsen Data -- Feb. 6, 2009