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By Don Longo
Thorntons Inc., the 155-unit convenience store chain based in Louisville, Ky., plans to open eight to 12 new stores this year in its existing markets, including its newest market, Nashville, Tenn., where the chain opened its first three stores last year.
"Our plan is for steady growth in existing markets, including Chicago, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, and Nashville, Tenn.," said Matt Thornton, CEO of the convenience store and gasoline marketer that operates in six states. Five of the new stores are slated for Nashville.
New stores will be modeled after Thorntons' "fresh market" concept, a 4,000-square-foot store that focuses on fresh food and grocery products (see Store of the Month profile, Convenience Store News, Oct. 22, 2007).
In an interview with CSNews last month, Thornton noted that the company's growth will continue to be organic. "We're passionate about consistency for both our customers and our employees," said Thornton, who noted that it is more difficult to attain this consistency when growth is by acquisition.
In addition, "multiples have been high out there" on potential acquisitions, Thornton said.
But, growing organically is not as easy as in the past either. Thornton couches his store growth projection as dependent upon a lengthier-than-usual permitting process. "We're seeing lead times, from site selection, to contract, to permits, to construction and opening extend to between one and 1 1/2 years," Thornton said. Longer lead times for new stores has "really hamstrung the industry as far as new growth is concerned," he added.
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