The number of convenience stores, now staple locations in some markets for bulk, skill crane and kiddie ride vendors, grew to a record 149,220 outlets last year. A survey by the National Association of Convenience Stores and AC Nielsen showed a modest increase of 1,094 stores last year, almost 1%.
This is good news for operators who have seen other high-traffic retail segments decline in recent years through store closures necessitated by a difficult economy. According to Nielsen, convenience stores account for 34.8% of all retail outlets in the U.S. That figure is significantly higher than the total number of other retail channels, including drugstores (40,727), supermarkets (33,192) and dollar stores (24,075).
"Our continued growth shows that our core offer of convenience resonates with customers, whether a fill up, quick snack or drink, or for fill-in groceries or take-out meals for time-starved consumers," said NACS chairman Dave Carpenter, president and chief executive of Denver-based J.D. Carpenter Companies Inc.
The convenience retailing industry continues to be dominated by single-store operators, which represent 62.9% of all c-stores (93,819), an increase of 0.7% over last year. There is also bifurcation within the industry. The only other company size that experienced growth was stores owned by companies with 500-plus stores. That total is now 21,738, an 8.9% increase over 2011.
Although the growth over the past year was relatively modest, industry officials point to the long-term advances over the past three decades. For example, at the end of 1982, the number of stores was 76,200, which increased to 100,800 stores in 1992 and to 132,400 stores in 2002.