It’s no surprise that 7-Eleven Inc. remains the largest convenience retail chain with 12,821 stores as of December 31, 2022, according to the 2023 NACS/ NielsenIQ list of the Top 100 Convenience Retailers. That’s nearly 100 stores more than 7-Eleven had in the 2022 ranking.
The Irving, Texas, convenience retailer has locations across the U.S., with the largest presence in the Northeast, where it has 3,542 stores, and the smallest footprint in the Central region, where it has 693 stores.
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., which owns the Circle K and Couche-Tard brands, is the second-largest chain by store count, with 5,702 stores in the U.S. The parent company is based in Laval, Quebec, with U.S. headquarters in Arizona. Couche-Tard operates convenience stores in 26 countries and territories, with more than 14,200 stores, of which roughly 10,800 offer road transportation fuel. Circle K’s largest U.S. footprint is in the Southeast, where it has 2,003 locations, up from 1,911 stores at the end of 2021.
Casey’s, EG America and GPM Investments LLC round out the top five by size, with 2,470, 1,696 and 1,391 stores, respectively. Casey’s, based in Ankeny, Iowa, dominates the Central region, where it has 1,493 stores. Casey’s has a presence in 16 Midwestern states, and about half of its c-stores are located in areas with populations of 5,000 or less. In fiscal 2023, Casey’s plans to add about 80 stores.
The NACS State of the Industry enterprise breaks down the size of convenience retail chains as A (1-10 stores), B (11-50), C (51-200), D (201-500) and E (500+). In the 2023 Top 100 Convenience Retailers list, there are 14 E-size firms atop the list, followed by 19 D-size firms and 67 C-size chains. (Note: The top 100 includes several ties in the rankings when chains had the same number of stores.)
Industrywide, 150,174 convenience stores operate in the United States—a 1.5% increase in the number of stores from a year earlier, according to the 2023 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count. Of these, 118,678 convenience stores sell motor fuels (79.0% of all convenience stores). Store count increases were recorded in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
“The value of convenience continues to grow, and that’s a driving factor why every retailer, regardless of channel, seeks to provide it. And it’s also clear that the convenience offer at convenience stores resonates with consumers, given the record in-store sales at convenience stores and increase in store count,” said NACS Managing Director of Research Chris Rapanick.
The main trend line in the 2023 NACS/ NielsenIQ store-count data is growth in the number of single-store operators after several years of shrinking numbers amid industry consolidation and a tough business climate. There are 90,423 single-store operators in the U.S., accounting for 60.2% of all convenience stores.
Consolidation continues in the convenience retail industry. ARKO Corp.’s GPM Investments, for example, acquired more than 200 retail stores in 2022, including Pride Convenience Holdings, Transit Energy Group and Uncle’s Convenience Stores, among others. “With our liquidity and deal-making ability, we believe we have a long runway to continue our long-term growth strategy, making disciplined, accretive acquisitions at attractive multiples to continue growing our convenience store footprint,” Arie Kotler, ARKO’s chairman, president and CEO, said in announcing the Pride Convenience Holdings deal in October. ARKO, based in Richmond, Virginia, has grown its c-store holdings from about 200 stores in seven states in 2013 to more than 1,390 c-stores in 33 states and Washington, D.C., via 22 acquisitions.
It’s not just the E-size firms that are growing. Among the smaller chains, Lawrenceville, Georgia-based Majors Management, which ranks 56 on this year’s list, recently announced deals to acquire 21 convenience stores from Davis Oil Co. and 13 Maritime Farms c-stores from Maritime Energy.