Who Sells America’s Fuel? | NACS – Your Business – NACS Retail Fuels Reports – 2015 NACS Retail Fuels Report – Retail Operations
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Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing

Who Sells America’s Fuel?

​​Americans fuel up their cars about four to five times every month at more than 150,000 fueling stations across the United States. But who owns these fueling locations? It’s highly unlikely that it’s an oil company and very likely it’s a one-store local business. 

Small Businesses Fuel America
There are 127,588 convenience stores selling fuel in the United States, and these retailers sell an estimated 80% of all the fuel purchased in the country. Overall, 58% of the convenience stores selling fuel are single-store operators — more than 70,000 stores. Many of these small businesses may not have the resources to brand their stores separately from the brand of fuel they sell and promote on their canopies, often leading to consumer misperceptions that they are businesses owned and operated by a major oil company.

Big Oil Continues to Exit Retail
Large, integrated oil companies, especially since 2007, have exited the retail business to focus more on resource production and refining operations. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and ConocoPhillips have either begun or completed the process of selling off all of their directly operated facilities. Of the 127,588 convenience stores selling fuels, less than 0.4% (443 stores) of them are owned by one of the five major oil companies as of June 2014.

Major Oil Keeps Its Brand Presence
While the major oil companies are withdrawing from retail operations, their brands remain. In fact, roughly half of retail outlets sell fuel under the brand of one of the 15 largest refiner-suppliers. Virtually all of these branded locations are operated by independent entrepreneurs who have signed a supply contract with a particular refiner/distributor to sell a specific brand of fuel, but these retailers do not share in the profit/loss of their suppliers.

The remaining 50% sold “unbranded” fuel. These stations often are owned by companies that have established their own fuel brand (i.e., QuikTrip, Wawa, 7-Eleven) and purchase fuels either on the open market or via unbranded contracts with a refiner/distributor.

Other Retail Channels Sell Fuels
Convenience stores sell more than 80% of the fuels purchased in the United States, and their dominance continues to grow. Over the past decade, the number of convenience stores selling fuels has grown by 15% (from 110,895 to 127,588 stores). Meanwhile, the overall number of fueling locations has dropped.

There were 152,995 total retail fueling sites in the United States in 2013, the last year measured by the now-defunct National Petroleum News’ MarketFacts. This was a steep and steady decline since 1994, when the station count topped 202,800 sites.

Another channel also has seen growth over the past decade: big-box grocery stores and mass merchandising stores, otherwise known as “hypermarkets.”  As of May 2014, the 5,236 hypermarket retail fueling sites sold an estimated 13.8% of the motor fuels (gasoline) purchased in the United States, according to Energy Analysts International. These sites sell approximately 278,000 gallons per month, more than twice the volume of a traditional fuels retailer.

The top five hypermarkets selling fuel, by store count, in fuels retailing are:

  • Kroger (1,220)
  • Walmart (999 stations, mainly Murphy USA with small mix of others; up to 200 new Murphy USA sites are due by end of 2015 per agreement)
  • Sam’s Club (505)
  • Costco (381)
  • Safeway (346)

(Source: Energy Analysts International)

The remainder of fuels sales in the United States comes from traditional service stations without convenience operations and very low-volume fueling sites, such as at marinas.