Revised and updated January 20, 2020.
Few things are more ubiquitous in the American landscape of every city and town than convenience stores. They tend to be small in size but can be quite lucrative. Entrepreneurs who want to capitalize on the convenience trend have several solid choices to examine on this list of the top 3 convenience store franchises of 2020.
In 2018, total convenience store sales topped $661.4 billion, which was a 7.3% increase from 2017 (2019 data won’t be available until mid-year 2020). Everyone needs to stop for gas, and most gas stations also have a convenience store – or is it that most convenience stores also sell gas? Either way, the daily commute many people make often includes a stop at a convenience store. Out of milk? Grab it at a convenience store on your way home from work. This is why convenience stores do so well – they’re very…convenient!
In terms of what’s offered, the three companies on this list are not very different from one another. Here are the 3 best convenience store franchises of 2020:
7-Eleven was the pioneer of the whole convenience store concept back in the late 1920s and it remains the clearly dominant player to this day. What many don’t know is that the original name was Tote’m because people “toted” their purchases home. It wasn’t until the 1940s when the growing chain extended its hours to be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. that it changed its name to 7-Eleven. Of course, these days all locations are open 24/7.
What sets this company apart from others from the franchisee perspective is how each location has some degree of flexibility to tailor its products to what the community wants. Now operated as a subsidiary of the Japanese company Seven & I Holdings Co., Ltd., the company is now described as a Japanese-American chain of convenience stores.
Founded by Joe C. Thompson in Dallas, Texas in 1927 and franchising since 1964, the number of locations has continued to expand steadily in recent years, especially internationally. The current total number of locations is 68,689 (an increase of 2,496 from the previous year’s total of 66,193), of which 2,382 are company-owned and 59,101 are located outside the US.
2. Circle K
Circle K franchisees have lots of options when it comes to joining this company. You can buy an existing location that’s for sale, you can rebrand an existing convenience store, or you can build a brand-new location on real estate you own or lease. And it doesn’t even have to carry the Circle K brand since the parent company owns multiple chains.
In the southeastern US, you might want to go with the Kangaroo Express brand, or along the eastern seaboard you might choose the On the Run brand. You can sell gasoline or not according to what makes sense for your location. This chain is currently owned by Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard and has mostly grown throughout its history by acquiring other c-store chains and rebranding them.
Founded by Fred Harvey in El Paso, Texas in 1951 and franchising since 1995, the number of locations has continued to grow after a decline in 2016 and currently stands at 11,128 (an increase of 2,945 from the previous year’s total of 8,183), of which 8,326 are company-owned and 2,240 are located outside the US.
ampm is in the midst of a somewhat silly campaign to emphasize its food and snack offerings with a strange-looking mascot named Toomgis because he’s a giant made up of “Too Much Good Stuff” (the chain’s snack food and beverage offerings). He has a podcast in which he explains the origins of various snack items – and although he sounds suspiciously like Cookie Monster when he speaks, he looks more like some kind of snack food Rastafarian. The chain has also introduced the Scratch Power App that allows customers to win prizes by scratching and scanning every time they visit a store.
ampm was started by oil company Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) but is now a subsidiary of oil and gas giant BP. Founded in Southern California in 1975 and franchising since 1979, the number of locations stands at 1,029 (an increase of 24 from the previous year), of which 81 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.