Convenience store count declines fourth straight year

Jan. 20, 2022

There are 148,026 convenience stores operating in the United States, a 1.5% decrease in the number of stores from a year earlier, according to the 2022 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count.

The unit count data are based on stores in operation as of December 2021.

The recent NACS study reported that convenience stores sell an estimated 80% of the motor fuels purchased by consumers in the U.S. The store count shows that 116,641 convenience stores sell motor fuels (78.8% of all convenience stores).

While there were 4,897 fewer stores selling motor fuels, compared with the year prior, a direct comparison is imprecise because the 2022 store count reflects a slight methodology change for c-stores that sell fuel, NACS explained. 

The decline was led by a 3.1% decrease in single-store operators, which still account for 60.4% of all convenience stores, or 89,336 units. The decline of single-store operators continues a multiyear trend; single-store operators made up a record 63.2% of the industry in 2017. Meanwhile, the percentage of single-store operators that sell fuel dropped to 54.6% in 2021, the lowest since the metric has been tracked in 2005.

The decline in the convenience store count reflects the decline of other retail brick-and-mortar stores except for dollar stores, the NACS/NielsenIQ narrative pointed out.

Convenience148,026 150,274-1.5
Grocery  45,68747,066-2.9

In addition, there are “gas station and kiosk” stores that sell fuel but not enough of an in-store product assortment to be considered convenience stores. Overall, there were 14,826 kiosks in 2021. The kiosk format continued to decline – down 5.2% the past year and 32.9% over the past six years – s more consumers sought out stores that have robust food and beverage offers.

Despite the fourth straight yearly decline in stores, the overall convenience store count is approximately the same as a decade ago (148,126 stores in 2012). With the U.S. population at 332.4 million according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is one convenience store per every 2,245 people.

“The new store count reflects ongoing changes that are happening in retail as our industry continues to invest in their operations and redefine convenience,” said NACS vice chairman of research and technology Chuck Maggelet, who is also chief executive of Maverik Inc., an operator of gasoline and c-stores.

“Our industry had record in-store sales in 2020  and was equally optimistic about continuing that sales trend in 2021. These opportunities to attract consumers and grow sales require new technologies and often different footprints that were not possible with many of the legacy stores that closed,” Maggelet said.

He added that approximately one in seven Maverik stores were remodeled or improved in 2021 and that the company expects to do the same again this year.

State rankings

Texas continues to have the most convenience stores (15,742 stores), or more than one in 10 stores in the nation.

The remainder of the top 10 is the same from the year prior: California is second at 12,053 stores; followed by Florida (9,400); New York (7,848); Georgia (6,448); North Carolina (5,690); Ohio (5,537); Michigan (4,819), Pennsylvania (4,629); and Illinois (4,623).

Texas is the only state in the top 10 that added stores (+47). Meanwhile, New York (-248), Florida (-219) and North Carolina (-200) lost the most stores.

With 174 stores, Alaska has the fewest stores.