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    Enhancement & Expansion

    Increased sales, acquisition activity mark the past year for convenience wholesalers.

    By Debra Chanil, EnsembleIQ

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — After a period of challenges, companies in the Convenience Store News Top Wholesalers ranking staged something of a comeback over the past year. These 25 companies achieved a combined sales increase of 4.1 percent, more than double the 1.7 percent posted in last year’s report. Sales reached $68.2 billion, with the top 10 companies driving almost 90 percent of this total.

    While the top 10 players remain virtually intact, three companies on last year’s list were acquired by some of those in the top 10. Eby-Brown Co. LLC (No. 3) acquired Liberty USA, West Mifflin, Pa. (No. 14 in last year’s report); Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc. (No. 2) picked up Pine State Trading Co., Augusta, Maine (previously No. 20); and H.T. Hackney Co. (No. 4) now owns Thomas & Howard Co., Columbia, S.C. (previously No. 26).

    Positions for eight of the top 10 have not changed from last year. McLane Co. Inc. continues to top the ranking, posting $32.3 billion in sales — a 2.1-percent increase following last year’s decline of 0.6 percent. Core-Mark reached sales of $11.1 billion to secure the second spot, while Eby-Brown hit $6 billion, a 13.2-percent increase (the largest among the top 10). 

    The only change in the top 10 in this year’s report came as Consumer Product Distributors Inc. overtook Imperial Super Regional Distributors for ninth place.

    Overall, among the 25 companies, Harbor Wholesale Foods achieved the largest increase at 19.4 percent. In addition to Harbor and Eby-Brown, other double-digit winners included S. Abraham & Sons Inc. (up 11 percent) and Consumer Product Distributors (10 percent).

    Expansion into new convenience categories is responsible for some of this growth, as about one-third of respondents this year report several category additions over the past 12 months. Such categories include fresh produce, dairy, deli and snacks. Cold and frozen beverages have also contributed, including this summer’s big trend: cold brew coffee.

    Several wholesalers noted that while they had not expanded into new categories, they had enhanced existing lines, including fresh produce and better-for-you products.

    New technology initiatives are also a priority for the top wholesalers. With goals of improved accuracy, instant access to information for both their sales representatives and customers, streamlined systems, improved security and mobility, these are some of the new technology programs implemented in the past year:

    • App-based ordering systems
    • Expanded website
    • Improved truck technology
    • In-house mobile technology
    • New CRM for outside sales force
    • New customer ordering device
    • Upgraded business management software
    • Voice-activated selecting system

    When asked about the single biggest trend impacting business today, 28.6 percent of the top wholesalers indicated decreasing customer profitability, followed by 23.8 percent citing increased government regulation. Short supply of qualified truck drivers was cited by 19 percent, with one respondent adding: “Not just truck drivers — all labor.”

    In terms of sales, the cigarettes category continues its slow but steady decline, dropping to 67.5 percent of the top wholesalers’ sales (down from 69 percent last year). Other tobacco products maintains its pattern of adding about a point each year, increasing from 8 percent to 8.9 percent this year. Candy/sweet snacks and foodservice each accounted for more than 5 percent.

    METHODOLOGY

    Rankings for the Convenience Store News Top Wholesalers report are based on sales from the last full fiscal year for each company. Data for this report was gathered through a survey conducted among the largest wholesalers primarily servicing c-stores that derive a majority of their annual sales from tobacco and candy products. Additional data was obtained through company reports and other public sources of financial data. In some cases, estimates have been made by CSNews based on historical data and current industry trends.

    By Debra Chanil, EnsembleIQ
    • About Debra Chanil Debra Chanil is Director of Market Research of EnsembleIQ. She can be reached at [email protected]

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