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WILTON, Conn. - In a trend that might come as no surprise to those that believe smaller will be better in the retail future, the number of convenience stores in the United States grew 3.2 percent over the past year for a total of 145,119 stores as of December 31, 2006, according to TDLinx, a service of The Nielsen Company, which is also the parent company of Progressive Grocer.
The net increase of 4,464 stores, from the previous year's total of 140,655 units, is the result of a greater number of stores opening than closing in 2006, as well as the addition of non-convenience stores that have evolved to fit the definition of a convenience store, according to TDLinx. A convenience store is defined as retail establishment that includes a broad merchandise mix, has extended hours of operation and offers a minimum of 500 stock keeping units (SKUs). [This definition is endorsed by NACS, the Association of Convenience and Petroleum Retailing, and used by Convenience Store News in its annual Industry Report and Forecast Study. Convenience Store News is a sister publication to Progressive Grocer.]
The convenience store industry is increasingly dominated by stores that are owned and operated as a one-unit business or franchise, with the number of these single stores now at 89,957, 62 percent of the total c-store count. This is the highest percentage recorded to date. Five years ago the percentage of single-store operators stood at 50 percent, according to TDLinx.
Convenience stores account for the majority of motor fuels sales in the United States, and this is reflected in the 114,974 stores that sell motor fuels, or 79.2 percent of all convenience stores, a slight decrease from the 80.2 percent of stores that sold motor fuels the year prior.
TDLinx also established a new census of outlets known as "convenience gas station/kiosks." These 19,713 outlets, virtually all of which are fueling stations that have small kiosk stores, are not large enough to meet the official definition of a conventional convenience store and are therefore not included in the convenience store count. California was, by far, the state with the most convenience gas station/kiosk operations, with a total of 2,729.
"The convenience channel continues to evolve quickly to meet the needs of the consumer," said Scott Taylor, TDLinx executive vice president and general manager. "The new segment of gas station/kiosks to the market is an important new sub-channel to keep an eye on as they grow in significance to the market."
In other trends noted by TDLinx, Texas continues to be home to nearly one-tenth of all U.S. convenience stores, with 14,175 units, followed by California (10,212 stores), Florida (9,380), New York (7,663) and Georgia (6,262), all ranking in the same position as last year.