Convenience Store Growth

By Jeff Lenard

The U.S. convenience store count increased to a record 148,136 stores as of December 31, 2011, a 1.2% increase (1,795 stores) from the year prior, according to the NACS/Nielsen TDLinx 2012 Convenience Industry Store Count.

"The continued growth in store count shows our industry is vibrant and adding jobs in difficult economic times. Convenience stores are an essential part of the fabric of everyday life across the country and our core offer of conve­nience continues to resonate with cus­tomers," said NACS Chairman Tom Robinson, president of Robinson Oil Corp. in Santa Clara, California.

The U.S. population on December 31, 2011, was an estimated 313 million, ac­cording to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means there is one convenience per ap­proximately every 2,100 residents.

The convenience retailing industry has seen remarkable growth over the last three decades. In 1982, the store count was 71,400 stores, in 1992 the store count was 103,400 stores and in 2002 the store count was 124,500 stores.

Gasoline continues to be an important business operation, with 81.7% of convenience stores selling motor fuels. A total of 120,954 convenience stores sell motor fuels, a 3.1% increase (3,657 stores) over last year. In fact, the growth of convenience stores selling motor fu­els is outpacing overall growth in the industry.

The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, accounting for 62.9% of stores (93,209 stores total). The growth of one-store operations again outpaced the overall growth in store count. The industry increased by 1.2%, while the number of one-store operations in­creased by 1.5%.

Additional Highlights:
  • Five states had store counts grow at a rate that was more than double the national average: New Jersey (3.3% growth), Alaska (3.2%), Massachusetts (2.7%), Oregon (2.7%) and New York (2.6%). Growth in Washington, D.C., was 2.9%.
  • Convenience stores serve as the one-stop shop for food and fuels in states that are dominated by small towns. Virtually all convenience stores sell fuel in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming (97% of stores).
  • The states with the lowest percentage of stores selling fuel either have full-service fueling mandates (New Jersey and Oregon) or are in the Northeast where many stores were built before the early 1970s when motor fuels sales at convenience stores began to flourish. The five states with the lowest percentage of c-stores that sell motor fuels are New Jersey (48%), Massachusetts (55%), New York (58%), Rhode Island (62%) and Oregon (65%). Only 41% of stores in Washington, D.C., sell motor fuels.
  • The percentage of one-store operators, true "mom-and-pop" stores, topped 50% for the first time in 2001; today, that percentage is 62.9%. The states with the highest percentage of one-store operations are Washington (77%), Georgia (76%), Alabama (74%), Connecticut (72%) and Mississippi (71%). In Washington, D.C., 80% of convenience stores are one-store operations.