Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., the operator of Circle K convenience stores, is seeking to double the amount of c-store outlets it operates in the U.S. and Canada during the next few years, the Canada National Post reported.
Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard, the second-biggest convenience-store chain in the U.S. with 3,858 stores in 43 states and the biggest in Canada with 2,048 stores across 10 provinces wants to have stores in almost every U.S. state. “We won’t be in Alaska. Aside from that we’re interested in being everywhere [in the U.S.],” the company’s President and CEO Alain Bouchard told the National Post.
Bouchard also hinted at plans to develop a credit card to counter what he said are “gouging” interchange fees for VISA and MasterCard credit cards. He added the company has met several times with representatives from Visa and MasterCard and has joined other business in the U.S. to lobby for the passing of a bill to regulate the credit card industry. The legislation has reached Congress, but Bouchard said if the “negotiating doesn’t work … “it’s clear we have a plan B.”
The announcement comes after a strong sales year for the company despite the recession and the recent acquisition of the trademark rights to ExxonMobil’s “On the Run” convenience stores, as well as 43 stores owned and operated by ExxonMobil and 444 of their franchised stores in the rest of the U.S.
The company operates under the Couche-Tard, Mac’s, Circle K and On the Run banners and employs more than 52,000 people. Its fiscal 2009 total revenues exceeded $15.7-billion with net earnings of $254-million representing a 34% increase compared to the previous year, the National Post reported.
“How big will we get? Well, my successor in 10 years will have to decide that,” Bouchard told a press conference after the company’s annual meeting in Laval, Que.
He added that the U.S. convenience store market is fragmented, “with the big players owning about 20% of the market,” which puts Couche-Tard in a position to acquire more stores from smaller chains and independent owners.
Bouchard said that in the U.S., there are another “seven or eight chains of around 1,000 stores that might interest me.”