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ALTOONA, Pa. -- Sheetz Inc., the operator of 394 convenience stores based here, expects to reach the 500-unit mark within the next few years, according to a report by the Altoona Mirror.
The c-store retailer, which saw its 2010 revenues hit $4.9 billion, will reach 400 stores by August and expects to hit 500 in three years, Joe Sheetz, the company's executive vice president, told the newspaper.
More than half of Sheetz' existing stores -- 211 of them -- are in Pennsylvania, but the company is expanding rapidly in both North Carolina and West Virginia. "Our No. 1 market is North Carolina. We have two full-time people who are based there to look for real estate. They are looking at this market inside and out," Sheetz said in the report.
Some 40 percent of the chain's new stores going forward will open in North Carolina. "We hope to build 10 per year in North Carolina; we think that is a good pace for us," Sheetz said.
The company made the decision to move into North Carolina in 2002 and opened its first store in Walkertown, near Winston-Salem, in 2004.
"We picked North Carolina because it has one of the fastest-growing populations in the country and the weather is mild most of the year. You also get a lot of long-distance commuters," Sheetz told the newspaper.
Sheetz is focusing on two corridors in North Carolina: a triangle of Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point and an extended triangle, which includes Raleigh-Durham, Rocky Mount and Greenville.
Sheetz also is expanding into new areas of West Virginia, primarily the Charleston and Huntington markets.
Seventy-five percent of Sheetz' revenue comes from gasoline sales. "The national average [for profit dollars] is 15 cents a gallon. We make less than that because we price aggressively," Sheetz said. "People come in to buy gas, but we hope that is not the only thing they want. We hope to get them inside the store."
Revenues inside the stores have grown at a nice clip, according to Sheetz.
"We are not severely affected by the recession because the stuff we sell is not expensive and [is] part of people's everyday lives. Rarely are people cutting out their daily paper, coffee and their sandwich at lunch. People trade down in the food marketplace, and they go to McDonald's or Sheetz. That helped us get through," he said.