Even as gas stations move to sell more fast food and small essentials, traditional convenience stores are looking to sell more gasoline. About 60% of the nation's 64,000 convenience stores now sell gasoline on the side, including between 80% and 85% of new stores, said Kerley LeBoeuf, president and chief executive of the National Assn. of Convenience Stores, based in Alexandria, Va. If it weren't for regulations in some parts of the country that prevent the sale of gas and alcohol at the same location, all new convenience stores would sell gasoline, he said.
The wide, seasonal fluctuation of gasoline sales adds flair to steadier earnings from traditional quick-stop items. "The profitability of gasoline is cyclical, whereas the profitability of a candy bar is not cyclical," said Robert A. Johnson, Western region gasoline market manager at Southland Corp., which owns the 7-Eleven chain.
The average 7-Eleven store selling gas in Southern California has six to eight hoses, while new stores average 12 hoses, Johnson said. Southland sold $1.72 billion worth of gasoline at 3,594 stores last year.
While some older Circle K stores have as few as two hoses, the newest stores have four pumps and 24 hoses, said Robert F. Burns, senior vice president for gasoline operations of the Phoenix-based convenience store chain. Gasoline accounted for about 35% of the chain's sales last year, he said, up from 28% in 1980.