Circle K adds 7 W.Pa. convenience stores

The Circle K convenience store chain is growing in Western Pennsylvania with the acquisition of seven stores to add to 22 it operates from Erie south to Washington.

The seven stores — including outlets in North Fayette and in Dunbar, Fayette County — were among 26 in three states that Circle K acquired from Chico Enterprises Inc. of Morgantown, W.Va., said Bill Bartolomeo, vice president for Circle K’s Great Lakes Division.

Circle K’s parent is Canadian convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., which has 5,741 stores operated by 13 business units. Nine of those business units are in the United States, operating in 43 states and the District of Columbia. In Canada, it uses the name Mac’s at its convenience stores.

Alimentation Couche-Tard has expanded its convenience stores rapidly, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

“There are some extraordinary retailers in the Pittsburgh area now,” Lenard said, mentioning Sheetz and Giant Eagle’s GetGo stores. So a new competitor would have to set itself apart, he said.

There are 73 GetGos in Western Pennsylvania, said Dick Roberts, a Giant Eagle spokesman, who declined to comment on the new competition.

Other convenience store chains in the region include 50 Sunoco A Plus stores, said spokesman Joe McGinn. Handee Mart operates 21 7-11 stores, according to its website, while Sheetz list 68 stores, from Erie to New Stanton and east into Indiana County.

The largest is CoGo’s, headquartered in Carrick, which operates more than 78 stores in Western Pennsylvania.

Convenience stores are a unique category in the market, said C. Britt Beemer, of America’s Research Group in Charleston, S.C.

“It all depends on location. If the site is good, then the store has a good chance to succeed,” he said.

Beemer said newer stores with a positive appearance have increased success because they attract women who feel safer frequenting them.

In the Pittsburgh region, Circle K locations include stores on Brighton Road on the North Side, Butler Street in Lawrenceville and in Sharpsburg, Ambridge, Aliquippa and Center.

In 2005, a dozen Dairy Mart stores in the area were converted to the Circle K name as Alimentation Couche-Tard, which had acquired Ohio-based Dairy Mart three years ago, moved to create one national brand.

The recently acquired North Fayette store sold for just less than $1.5 million, while the Fayette County store sold for $1.71 million. The North Fayette store on Market Place Drive operated under the All Star Express name. Bartolomeo wouldn’t give the locations of the others or discuss plans for the stores or other possible sites.

Alimentation Couche-Tard has been making recent acquisitions.

In August, the company signed a deal through subsidiary Circle K Stores Inc. to acquire 33 stores in southern Louisiana from ExxonMobil. The deal for the On the Run-branded stores is expected to close in December. Also in August, the company through its RDK joint venture agreed to buy 27 stores in the Chicago area, 14 of which it plans to run as corporate stores, plus two land parcels. Independent operators are to run the other stores. Also Dead River Co. in Maine is selling 19 stores to Circle K, with the transaction to be complete in December.

The company made a $139.5 million profit in its first quarter ended July, up 9.9 percent from the previous year, on total sales of $5.18 billion. During the quarter, the company acquired 13 stores and opened or expanded 16, but it closed 83 stores.

By Sam Spatter and Kim Leonard

Sam Spatter and Kim Leonard can be reached at sspatter@tribweb.com or 412-320-7843.

FOR THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

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