Top Retail Fuel Station Brands Revealed

An updated report for 2022 on the top retail gasoline and diesel chains in the country showed surprising results. Here are some highlights.

The just-released OPIS report on retail fuel station brand power compiled performance rankings of 275 chains based on estimated volumes, margins, profits, market share, brand efficiency and head-to-head win percentage against directly competing brands.

The report was geared toward helping retailers – of any size – understand the effectiveness of their strategy and opportunities to improve their margins, volumes, and overall bottom line.

How Is Gas Station Price Data Collected? Who Was Top?

Volume estimates were based on market share from both fleet card transactions as well as foot-traffic data that comes from tracking nearly 120 million cell phones.

Through a partnership with a location-based data tracking company, OPIS geo-fenced every fuel station in the US, and market share was determined by seeing when cell phones pinged on each location.

While the rankings have changed from previous years, the top 10 chains remained mostly unchanged in 2022 with some light position shuffling. Thorntons (8th in 2022, 12th in 2021) moved into the top 10 along with Holiday (9th in 2022, 14th in 2021). Royal Farms dropped out of the top 10 to 14th, while Kum & Go, which was acquired by Maverik earlier this year, slid to 18th.

Based on the number of sites operated, it is no surprise that 7-Eleven, Circle K, and Speedway had the highest total volumes; all three of the national giants saw volumes grow year on year. Casey’s also saw impressive volume growth year over year.

While 7-Eleven, Circle K and Speedway by far moved the most volume in 2022, none of the chains were in the top 10. Speedway was the closest in 2022 at 11th, but there are multiple criteria that go into the OPIS retail gasoline chain rankings.

A Deeper Dive into the Elements of the Rankings

While the mega-chains sold the most fuel annually, when looking at it on a per-site basis, Buc-ees by far sells the most fuel as the giant footprints and pumps that approach triple digits.

Mainstays of the annual top 5 also see strong average monthly sales as Wawa, Sheetz, QuikTrip, Racetrac and QuickChek all averaged more than 200,000 gallons per month based on the combined fleet card transactions and cell phone traffic metrics.

The rapid rise in wholesale and retail prices followed by an even sharper decline during the summer of 2022 after retail gasoline prices hit an all-time high of $5.016/gal in mid-June led to a margin environment that was in a word “spectacular.” In some cases the average gross margin in 2022 just about doubled year on year thanks to the summer swoon in wholesale prices.

As is normally the case, the strongest gross margins are found in Western states and in 2022 ExtraMile with 503 sites spanning four of the highest priced states in the country (California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) saw an average gross margin that approached 91cts/gal. Based on the gross margin and estimated volumes an ExtraMile site averaged a little over $100,000 per month.

Other West Coast operators secured high average gross margins with Astro, Rotten Robbie and Flyers all notching an average margin of 85cts/gal or better in 2022.

There were five chains that saw average site profits top six figures in 2022, but only two, ExtraMile and Rotten Robbie, operate on the high margin West Coast.

Another category in the OPIS ranking is a local market share and Buc-ees once again leads this category at just over 50% market share, the only chain that gathered more than 50% local market share. Oklahoma and Texas based Oncue Express had the second highest local market share, followed by Wawa, Sheetz and QuikTrip.

Several chains, mostly in Northeast locations are mired in intense competition. OPIS measures “local competitor density” which accounts for the radius around a site before four competitors are found.

Global, while only having 36 sites in a handful of Northeast states, sees some of the highest competition with a competitor density of just 1.1 miles.

However, close competition is not just a Northeast thing. Green Valley Grocery (Nevada), GOLO (Illinois/Indiana) U Gas (Florida/Missouri) and We Got It (California) all have a local competitor density of 1.2 miles. Of the 255 brands in the OPIS brand report, 61 all have a competitor density of less than 2 miles.

NTIs and Acquisitions Fuel Station Growth

New to industry builds and acquisitions were fueling site counts amongst multiple chains in 2022.

7-Eleven saw the strongest growth, adding 394 sites over the past year. Based on the latest OPIS count, 7-Eleving is just shy of 5,000 sites and catching up to the national leader of Circle K, which saw 50 sites divested in 2022. Meanwhile, Refuel saw its station count grow more than three-fold to 159 sites.

Casey’s came close to reaching 100 new stations, adding 85 in 2022, bringing the total to 2,460 in 16 states.

The 2023 rankings could also look much different thanks to M&A activity. Earlier in 2023, Maverik acquired Kum & Go and its 421 stores and they plan to expand the Maverik footprint to seven more states and extend as far east as Arkansas and Missouri. Another one to look out for is the pending deal for Circle K and Tri-Star to acquire differing numbers of sites from MAPCO.

Casey’s is not sitting still either with a recent purchase of 63 sites from EG America as well as another 26 Minit Mart stores in 2023.

Not only are some regional chains growing in their traditional markets but have also announced expansion plans. Wawa is closing in on being contiguous up and down the East Coast adding the Carolinas over the next few years as well as further west into Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

Buc-ees has broken away from its traditional I-10 corridor recently with expansion into Tennessee and South Carolina, but plans for Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.

Over 250 chains were ranked in more than 15 separate categories, with estimated profit per site weighted the highest towards the overall rankings and total estimated profits weighted second highest.

Other categories that were included in the total score were foot-traffic efficiency, estimated rack-to-retail margin, overall market share based on both fleet cards and cell phone tracking, market share in a 1-mile radius of the chain’s site, win percentage in head-to-head battles and price differentials.

Tags: C-stores, Gas & Diesel