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    Single Stores Widen Store Count Gap, But Not Sales Gap

    Per-store sales growth for independents trailed the total industry in 2015.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News

    NATIONAL REPORT — Once again, despite continued high-profile acquisitions by many of the U.S. convenience store industry’s largest retailers, single-store owners increased their lead in store count over chains last year. In 2015, single stores accounted for 97,359 of the c-store industry’s total store count of 154,195, or 63 percent of total stores, according to the 2016 Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner Industry Report.

    There was a net increase of 1,041 stores operated by single-store owners last year, compared to a store count increase of only 360 operated by chains of two or more stores.

    However, while single stores widened the store count gap with chain operators, they lost ground on a sales-per-store basis. The average single store generated $1,256,935 in in-store sales last year, an increase of 2.8 percent from 2014. Total industry operators, on the other hand, saw a 3.7-percent sales per store gain to $1,406,866, a record high for the industry.

    The Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner Industry Report isolates data collected from single-store respondents and analyzes it against total industry stores. Meanwhile, the Convenience Store News Industry Report, now in its 41st year, features data from a variety of sources in order to provide a complete picture of the convenience store industry.

    Total revenues for single-store owners declined by 14 percent last year to $316.2 billion due to sharply lower gasoline prices (the average price per gallon fell from $3.41 to $2.58). This same factor adversely impacted overall convenience store industry sales, which declined by 14.4 percent.

    Nevertheless, single-store owners racked up an impressive financial performance in 2015. By almost every other measure, single-store owners, like the rest of the convenience store industry, operated on all cylinders. It was one of the industry’s best years — maybe more impressive than 2014’s record performance. With the lowest pump prices in years, consumers hit the road more often in their cars and had more dollars in their pockets to spend on food, beverages and other merchandise inside the store. Meanwhile, retailers enjoyed record-high fuel profits on those low pump prices.

    Among other highlights:

    • Motor fuel gallons sold, which peaked for the industry in 2007, set a new high last year at 151.3 billion, with 75.4 billion of those gallons pumped by single-store owners.
    • Total gross profits for single-store owners rose 2.9 percent to $47.7 billion. Fuel profits were a record-high $17.6 billion, an increase of 0.5 percent. Both these figures follow record profitability figures in 2014.
    • In-store gross profit dollars for single-store owners were up a solid 4.3 percent over the previous year. Low gas prices and an improving economy appear to be driving sales of premium brand products, according to industry insiders.
    • In pretax profits, single-store owners again beat the record gains of the previous year, achieving pretax profits of $4.2 billion in 2015.
    • Foodservice sales (including prepared food, hot, cold and frozen dispensed beverages) were just as strong at single stores as they were at chains. Single stores achieved foodservice sales growth of 6.9 percent, nearly matching the total industry’s 7.1-percent growth, which was the category’s highest percentage gain since 2012.
    • Merchandise sales (excluding foodservice) were up 3.4 percent to $100.8 billion for single stores, easily topping the 2.6-percent gain of 2014.

    Look in the June issue for the full 2016 Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner Industry Report. 

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News
    • About Don Longo Don Longo is editorial director of Stagnito Business Information'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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