couchetard named convenience store decisions chain of the year

In a year where several top convenience store companies distinguished themselves with new store prototypes, increased sales and strong financial portfolios, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. stood out from the crowd by cementing its position as a dominant marketer in the U.S. and Canada. As a result of its outstanding growth and strong leadership, Convenience Store Decisions is proud to name Couche-Tard its 2007 Convenience Store Chain of the Year.
“Couche-Tard is a shining example of everything a Chain of the Year should be,” said Shahla Hebets, publisher of Convenience Store Decisions. “The company’s trademark is outstanding leadership paced by innovation and a well-executed growth strategy that saw the chain add more than 3,600 stores—which included some venerable U.S. and Canadian brands—in just eight years.”

Headquartered in Laval, Quebec, Couche-Tard today operates a network of 5,360 convenience stores, 3,308 of which sell motor fuels, covering 28 states and six Canadian provinces. It employs nearly 40,000 people and reported revenue of $10.2 billion in fiscal year 2006 with net earnings of $196.2 million.
“Under CEO Alain Bouchard, Couche-Tard has demonstrated the strong leadership and remarkable growth we have come to expect from a Chain of the Year,” said John Lofstock, Editor-in-Chief of Convenience Store Decisions. “This is a well-deserved honor the entire CSD team is proud to bestow on an outstanding company.”
Bouchard, chairman, president and CEO of Couche-Tard, started the chain with one store in 1980. In 1986, with a network of 34 stores, a predecessor of Couche-Tard completed an initial public offering and listed its shares on the Montreal Exchange. After establishing a leading position in Quebec, Couche-Tard expanded through internal growth and acquisitions in Ontario and Western Canada in 1997. In May of that year, Couche-Tard acquired from Provigo Inc. 245 Provi-Soir stores in Quebec and 50 Wink’s stores in Ontario and Western Canada.
Remarkable Growth
In April 1999, Couche-Tard acquired 980 stores in Ontario and Western Canada operating under the Mac’s, Mike’s Mart and Becker’s banners through the acquisition of Silcorp Limited. In June 2001, the company made its first U.S. acquisition when it purchased 172 stores under the Bigfoot banner in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. In August 2002, Couche-Tard acquired 287 stores from Dairy Mart, also located in the Midwest.
The following year in December, Couche-Tard made its biggest splash in the U.S. market, acquiring the Circle K brand, which included 1,663 Circle K stores in 16 states and an additional 616 franchised and licensed units.
As part of Couche-Tard’s retail strategy, its stores are located in high-traffic areas, which includes nontraditional locations like linear strip malls and shopping centers. The design of the stores is based on attracting customers in their local markets rather than conforming to a single model. The average store size is between 2,000 and 2,500 sq. ft. compared with approximately 3,000 sq. ft. for all new stores. The additional space is to accommodate quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and seating.
At the core of its retail offering is a quality assortment of fresh-brewed coffees, frozen/iced beverages, fresh sandwiches and other fresh food items marketed under several proprietary brands including La Maisonnee branded fresh sandwiches and breakfast selections, Sunshine Joe Coffee Co., Thirst Buster and The Frozen Zone. Couche-Tard also sells motor fuels under multiple private labels, including Couche-Tard, Mac’s and Circle K. While branding is considered an important asset, the company maintains it is not dependent upon any single trademark or trade name.
CSD will honor Couche-Tard at the Chain of the Year dinner and reception during the 2007 NACS Show in Atlanta. To request seating for this event, please contact Publisher Shahla Hebets or Editor-in-Chief John Lofstock.
Couche-Tard’s Executive Team Profile:
* Alain Bouchard, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
* Jacques D’Amours, Vice President, Administration
* Richard Fortin, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
* Brian Hannasch, Senior Vice President, Western North America
* Ral Plourde, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
About the Chain of the Year Award CSD’s Chain of the Year award annually honors a convenience store or petroleum chain that has established itself as a superior retailer and innovator in its markets of operation. CSD’s first Chain of the Year award was given to Wawa Inc. in 1990. Couche-Tard follows 2006 Chain of the Year winner Valero Energy Corp. Other past winners include Sheetz Inc., 7-Eleven Inc., Krause Gentle Corp., Amerada Hess, Exxon Mobil Corp., Petro-Canada and Kwik Trip Inc.

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