There are plenty of convenience stores in the U.S., but not as many as there were a year ago.
There are 150,274 convenience stores operating in the United States, down 1.6% decrease in the number of stores in operation (152,720) at the close of 2019, according to the 2021 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count. The store count is based on c-stores that were open as of December 2020.
Among the states, Texas continues to have the most convenience stores (15,695 stores), or more than one in 10 stores in the country. The rest of the top 10 also remains the same from the year prior. California is second at 12,074 stores, followed by Florida (9,619), New York (8,096), Georgia (6,574), North Carolina (5,890), Ohio (5,564), Michigan (4,855), Pennsylvania (4,698) and Illinois (4,629).
California is the only state in the top 10 that added stores (+84) this past year. The largest declines were in New York (-393 stores), Florida (192) and Texas (161) saw the largest declines. Alaska (176) has the fewest stores in the country.
The decrease in the total c-store count was expected given the overall retail contraction (see chart at end of article) that occurred in the U.S. during the past year, according to NACS. The industry decline was led by a 3.1% decrease in single-store operators (92,196 in 2020 vs. 95,108 in 2019), which account for 61.4% of all convenience stores.
In addition, the decrease in the industry store count was more pronounced among stores that did not sell fuel. Of the total 2,446-store decline, 1,986 did not sell fuel, compared to 460 that sold fuel.
Convenience stores sell an estimated 80% of the fuel purchased in the U.S. The new store count shows that 121,538 convenience stores sell motor fuels (80.9% of all convenience stores), a slight 0.4% drop from 121,998 stores selling fuels the year prior.
“While pandemic-related restrictions significantly affected commuting in 2020, leading to an estimated 10% to 15% decrease in fuel demand, fuel was still an important convenience offer as customers increasingly relied on their local convenience store to bundle shopping occasions when fueling up and also purchasing fill-in grocery items and take-home meals at stores,” said NACS VP of Research Lori Stillman.
Despite the third straight yearly decline in stores, the overall convenience store count has increased 2.7% during the past decade. The last time the industry saw multi-year declines was 2009 and 2010, related to the economic fallout of the Great Recession.
The decline in the convenience store count reflects the decline of all brick-and-mortar stores. Overall, retail contracted 2.1%, with the dollar store [extreme value] channel being one of the few channels that saw growth (+3.1%). All other major competing channels had fewer units by December 2020.