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Circle K

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Circle K Stores, Inc.
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryRetail (convenience stores)
FoundedEl Paso, Texas, U.S. (1951; 73 years ago (1951))
FounderFred Hervey
Number of locations
Area served
Number of employees
ParentAlimentation Couche-Tard, Inc.
Footnotes / references

Circle K Stores, Inc. is an American chain of convenience stores headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, and owned by Alimentation Couche-Tard, Inc., based in Laval, Quebec, Canada.[7] Founded in 1951 in El Paso, Texas, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 and went through several owners, before being acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard in 2003.[2][1] As of February 2020, Circle K has 9,799 stores in North America, 2,697 stores in Europe, and an additional 2,380 stores operating under franchise agreements worldwide.[1]

In 2015, Circle K unveiled a new logo and brand identity, and Couche-Tard announced that it would deploy the brand globally, including English-speaking Canada (rebranding from the Mac's brand), Europe (rebranding from the Statoil brand), and the United States (rebranding from the Kangaroo Express brand and updating the existing Circle K brand).[1][3]


Since the 1980s, Circle K has been the largest chain of company-owned and operated (non-franchised) convenience stores in the United States.[1][8] With 7,230 stores overall in the United States, Circle K is second to 7-ELEVEN's 9,348 stores (as of July 2019).[9] As of February 2020, there are more than 14,800 stores with the Circle K brand worldwide.[1][10]

Within the United States, Circle K owns and operates stores in 48 states (the two states without being Nebraska and Utah),[1][10] with the largest concentration of stores found in Louisiana.[11] Fuel is sold under various brands, with the Circle K and Shell brands as the most common. Other brands of fuel sold at Circle K stores include Valero, BP, Exxon, Marathon, Irving, Mobil, Esso and Phillips 66. Approximately 13% of stores worldwide do not sell fuel.[1]

Circle K operates stores in the United States, Canada, Europe (the Nordics, Baltics, Poland, Russia, & Ireland), and Hong Kong, and has franchises in Mexico (it partners with the Mexican stores "Tiendas Extra" created by Modelo Group), Cambodia, China, Egypt, Guam, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Macau, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.[1][10] In Hong Kong and Macau, the stores are called OK in reference to the circle around the K. Circle K Hong Kong was founded in 1985 by Li & Fung Retailing (later Fung Retailing) as licensee of the name,[12] but sold back to Couche-Tard in 2020.[13][14] Circle K had 387 franchised locations throughout Hong Kong as of May 2020.[12][15]

A Circle K located in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

The Circle K brand entered the Canadian market in 2008, in connection with Couche-Tard's acquisition of Irving Oil's convenience store network.[16][17] By 2019, more than 800 Mac's branded stores had been rebranded to Circle K throughout central and western Canada.[18][3]

The world's most northern fuel station, in Longyearbyen, Norway

In September 2015, Couche-Tard announced that Circle K would become the worldwide brand of all of its convenience stores, replacing Mac's, Kangaroo Express, Statoil, and Holiday Stationstores brands (except the Couche-Tard brand in Quebec and the INGO brand in Europe).[3][10] This global rebrand included the introduction of a new logo incorporating elements of its existing brands, improvements to its product offerings and technology, and investing in store-level improvements aimed at improving the customer experience.[10][3] The rebranding occurred over the following five years and as of March 2020, all of Europe and 85% of North America had been updated with the Circle K brand and logo.[10]


The former Circle K logo. It can still be seen in New England, Canada, Hong Kong and Macau

Entrepreneur Fred Hervey purchased three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas, in 1951.[19] Hervey renamed the stores as "Circle K Food Stores, Inc." rather than "Kay." He grew the Circle K chain into neighboring New Mexico and Arizona, which has been the company's home base since 1957. (Hervey would go on to serve two terms as mayor of El Paso.)

By 1975, there were 1,000 Circle K stores across the U.S. In 1979, Circle K first expanded its reach into foreign markets via a licensing agreement which established the first Circle K stores in Japan by UNY.[19] Until 2018, Circle K stores in Japan were run by the FamilyMart Company, that was named Circle K Sunkus Company until 2016[20] and was named Circle K Japan Company until 2004, which licensed the Circle K brand from Alimentation Couche-Tard. In 2018,[21] all Circle K stores in Japan were converted to FamilyMart stores. In 1983, the number of stores increased to 2,180 with the purchase of the 960-store UtoteM chain in the western and southern United States.[22]

Karl Eller, a prominent Phoenix, Arizona businessman, served as the company's CEO from 1983 to 1990. During that time, Eller built Circle K into the second largest convenience store operation and the largest publicly owned convenience store chain in the U.S. with 4,631 stores in 32 states and an additional 1,300 or so licensed or joint venture stores in 13 foreign countries. Under Eller's leadership, the company grew from annual sales of $747 million ($2.29 billion in 2023 dollars[23]) to over $3 billion ($7 billion in 2023 dollars[23]).

In 1988, the company sent a letter to its over 8,000 employees announcing that it will cut off the medical coverage of those who become sick or injured as a result of AIDS, alcohol, drug abuse or self-inflicted wounds. The company stated that "There are certain lifestyle decisions that we are just not going to assure the results of."[24]

Fortunes declined in the late 1980s as the U.S. economy began to slow down, and Circle K filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 1990; Eller resigned as CEO. Some underperforming locations were sold or closed. In 1993 the company was purchased by Investcorp, an international investment group, and emerged from bankruptcy.

In 1996, Circle K was acquired by Tosco Corporation, an independent petroleum refiner and marketer, but kept its headquarters in Phoenix. Tosco was purchased in 2001 by Phillips Petroleum, which, in 2002, merged with Conoco to form ConocoPhillips. In 2003, Circle K was purchased by Alimentation Couche-Tard, a large, multinational convenience store operator based in the Montreal area,[19] for US$830 million ($1.37 billion in 2023 dollars[23]).[25]

In 2005, Taiwan's OK Convenience Store chain terminated its franchise agreement with Circle K.[26]

In 2006, the company acquired the 90-store Spectrum chain serving Georgia and Alabama,[27] the CFM chain in Missouri, 35 Sterling Dairy locations in Northwest Ohio, and 26 stores under various brands from Chico Enterprises of Morgantown, West Virginia.[28] This came after the 2005 rebranding of the various Couche-Tard stores (Mac's, Bigfoot, Dairy Mart, and Handy Andy) under the more nationally known Circle K brand.[29]

In mid-2006, Alimentation Couche-Tard entered into a franchising agreement with ConocoPhillips to brand some of its company-owned stores as Circle K, in the western portion of the U.S. ConocoPhillips remodeled the stores into the Circle K scheme but continued to operate them. The stores continued to have the new ConocoPhillips unified canopy design and ProClean fuels. These stores were spun off as Phillips 66 in May 2012.

Another oil company, Canada-based Irving Oil, leased out its convenience stores operating under the Bluecanoe and Mainway banners in the United States and Atlantic Canada to Couche-Tard, which rebranded the locations to Circle K in July 2008, while still selling Irving-branded fuel. However, the Mainways in Newfoundland and Labrador did not change until summer 2010. The parties had earlier formed a similar partnership in Quebec, with the stores there operated as Couche-Tard.

In April 2009, ExxonMobil sold 43 Phoenix stores to parent company Couche-Tard as part of a sale of the larger On the Run franchise. These 43 stores were to be rebranded under the Circle K name.[30]

In July 2010, Circle K had dropped down to fourth rank in number of stores (3,455), behind 7-ELEVEn (6,523 stores), BP (4,730 stores), and Shell (4,630 convenience stores) in 2010.[9]

A Circle K petrol station in Tallinn, Estonia

In April 2012, Circle K purchased Norway-based Statoil Fuel and Retail ASA and its 2300 fuel stations located in Scandinavia, the Baltics, Poland, and western Russia for $2.8 billion.[31]

On February 10, 2014, Modelo Group sold the Tiendas Extra brand of stores to the Mexican franchise of Circle K, Circulo K.

A Circle K with an Exxon fuel station in North Richland Hills, Texas

On December 18, 2014, Couche-Tard announced its acquisition of The Pantry for $860 million all-cash tender ($1.11 billion in 2023 dollars[23]). The acquisition closed in March 2015.[32] Following the closing, all stores that were owned and operated by The Pantry, many of them under the "Kangaroo Express" name, were expected to be rebranded under the Circle K banner.[33]

On August 12, 2015, Circle K opened its first five convenience stores in Costa Rica, Central America, after having bought and rebranded the local convenience store chain Delimart.[citation needed]

A Circle K in Richmond Hill, Ontario, converted from an On the Run store after its purchase from Imperial Oil
A Circle K fuel pump with the Quality Guaranteed seal

On September 23, 2015, Couche-Tard unveiled a refreshed brand identity for Circle K, and announced that the Statoil (Northern, Central and Eastern Europe) and Mac's (English Canada) brands would be converted to Circle K.[34][35][36]

In 2016, Couche-Tard acquired the Irish service station chain Topaz. In April 2018, Couche-Tard announced that they too would be rebranded to Circle K.[37] Couche-Tard similarly acquired Imperial Oil's Esso retail locations in Ontario (228) and Quebec (50) the same year, and rebranded the convenience stores in Ontario (many of which previously operated under the On the Run brand) to Circle K.[38]

In 2017, Couche-Tard completed its acquisition of CST Brands, adding stores formerly owned by Valero Energy, and a portion of the Ultramar chain in Canada to Circle K (with the latter also switching fuel suppliers to Irving).[39][40][41]

Also in 2017, Couche-Tard bought Holiday Stationstores, a Minnesota-based chain of fuel stations in the Midwestern United States.[42] The company subsequently extended business practices from Holiday to its North American stores, including piloting a food service model adapted from that of Holiday.[43]

In November 2018, Circle K opened its first store in New Zealand through master franchisee Pamma Retail Group.[44]

In September 2021, Circle K announced the purchase of 10 convenience and food stores from the Griffin Group in Ireland. All the stores being bought are in Dublin and located in busy areas such as O’Connell Street, College Green, Grafton Street and Sandyford.[45]

In February 2022, Couche-Tard announced that it would rebrand 12 Holiday Stationstores locations in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Circle K.[46]

The interior of a Circle K in Orlando, Florida

A May 2022 report in The Wall Street Journal reported that Circle K parent Alimentation Couche-Tard is in talks to buy EG Group. Should a deal go through, it would significantly boost Circle K's presence in several U.S. markets (especially Florida, New England and Ohio) as well as giving it a location in every state except Utah. Internationally, it would give Circle K access to Australia, Western Europe, and EG Group's home market of the United Kingdom.[47] Some have speculated that the deal may be in response to Alimentation Couche-Tard having been outbid by its primary rival 7-Eleven for the American Speedway chain.[48]

Wage violations[edit]

A 2021 report on wage theft by the Center for Public Integrity named Circle K as one of the "worst offenders" in the United States.[49] A class-action lawsuit was brought against the company in 2014,[50][51] for which the company agreed in 2019 to pay a settlement of US$8.3 million.[52] Circle K settled a similar class-action lawsuit in 2015 as well.[53]

Frosters and Polar Pops[edit]

Fountain drinks at Circle K are sold in Polar Pop cups, previously called Thirst Busters, and are available in expanded polystyrene cups. In areas where polystyrene containers are illegal, plastic or paper cups are offered. The 52-ounce cups are plastic. Most American locations offer any size, 32 ounce or under, for under $1, while 52 ounces or above cups are priced at over a dollar. The price point of its 44-ounce size (marketed as "Epic XL" in some regions) may vary, as it may be under or over $1, depending on the region.

The Polar Pop was first introduced in Bigfoot convenience stores by Johnson Oil Company in Columbus, Indiana, prior to its acquisition by Alimentation Couche-Tard. After the acquisition, the company began rebranding fountain drinks in other stores owned by Couche-Tard. As of 2018, Circle K sells 17 Polar Pops every second in the United States.[54]

The Froster, which was introduced to Mac's stores in 1998, became very popular throughout Western Canada and Ontario. The American version of the Froster was introduced in 1999.


Circle K was a part-time primary sponsor of the No. 28 IndyCar Series racecar driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport between 2011 and 2013. In 2014, it switched to KVSH Racing driver Sébastien Bourdais. Circle K, along with Oberto Sausage Company, currently sponsors Marco Andretti.

In 2017, Circle K went to NASCAR, sponsoring Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing with full livery for six races. It was on the car when Kenseth won his final NASCAR Cup Race at that year's fall race at Phoenix Raceway.

Also in 2017, Circle K became the official shirt sponsor of United Soccer League side North Carolina FC[55] and signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with the Lithuanian Basketball League.[56]

Due to its sizable presence in Greater Cleveland, from the former Lawson/Dairy Mart stores, Circle K sponsors the Cleveland Guardians strikeout sign. It is located in center field at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The "K" logo represents the "K" used for strikeouts in traditional baseball scorekeeping and is replicated with each strikeout. The same sponsorship is in place with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. If the Diamondbacks strikeout ten batters or more, the game's attendees receive a voucher for a free cup of Polar Pop, while Guardians fans receive the same voucher after select home games.

In May 2017, a sponsored Circle K Power Cube was introduced into the online game Ingress.[57]

Explanatory notes[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Our Company". Couche-Tard. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "History and Timeline". Circle K Stores, Inc. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Global Circle K". Couche-Tard. Archived from the original on August 12, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  4. ^ ""Bensin-Statoil" døpes om til "Circle K"" (in Norwegian). E24. September 22, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  5. ^ "Topaz Rebrands to Circle K in Ireland". RTE. April 13, 2018. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  6. ^ "Accueil dépanneurs Couche-Tard". Couche-tard.com. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
  7. ^ "Circle K Corp/The - Company Profile and News". Bloomberg News.
  8. ^ Albrecht, W. Steve; Stice, Earl K.; Stice, James D. (2008). Financial Accounting (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Thomson/South-Western. p. 217. ISBN 978-0324645576. OCLC 159958977.
  9. ^ a b "Top 100 Convenience Store Chains". Convenience Store News. July 30, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Circle K's Global Rebranding Effort Marches Across North America". Convenience Store News. March 31, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  11. ^ "Store Locator". Circle K Stores, Inc. May 2, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  12. ^ a b "About Circle K". Convenience Retail Asia. Archived from the original on July 18, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  13. ^ "Convenience Retail Asia to sell 340 Circle K stores to Alimentation Couche-Tard – the owner of the Circle K brand" (PDF). Convenience Retail Asia. November 5, 2020. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  14. ^ "Completion of the very substantial disposal in relation to the convenience store business and update on payment of special cash dividend and resignation of director" (PDF). Convenience Retail Asia. December 21, 2020. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 2, 2021. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  15. ^ "Store Locator". Circle K Hong Kong. May 2, 2020. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  16. ^ "Couche-Tard inks deal to run stores at Irving gas stations". The Globe and Mail. May 9, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  17. ^ "Couche-Tard to take over Irving Blue Canoes". Marketing Magazine. May 9, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  18. ^ "Couche-Tard Enters Year Four of Circle K Rebranding Campaign". Convenience Store News. September 17, 2019. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  19. ^ a b c "History and timeline". Circle K. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  20. ^ "Japan's FamilyMart, UNY to merge in September 2016". Reuters. March 10, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  21. ^ "ALIMENTATION COUCHE-TARD INC.ANNUAL INFORMATION FORM For Fiscal year ended April 29, 2018" (PDF). couche-tard.com. July 9, 2018. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  22. ^ "Circle K-Utotem". The New York Times. December 29, 1983. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  23. ^ a b c d 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  24. ^ Noble, Kenneth B. (August 6, 1988). "Company Halting Health Plan On Some 'Life Style' Illnesses". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  25. ^ "Couche-Tard to purchase Circle K". msnbc.com. October 6, 2003. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  26. ^ Amy Chang-Chien Hsueh; Josephine Hsu (June 30, 2010). "Taiwan Convenience Stores 2010" (PDF). USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Global Agricultural Information Network. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2015. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  27. ^ "Couche-Tard acquires Spectrum Stores a 90 store chain in the Southeast Region (U.S.)". PR Newswire. April 11, 2006.
  28. ^ "Circle K Acquires 26 Stores in Three States". Convenience Store News. November 9, 2011. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  29. ^ "Couche-Tard Rebrands Midwest Stores to Circle K: Process should take approximately two years". Convenience Store News. September 12, 2004.
  30. ^ "Couche-Tard Acquires ExxonMobil Franchised On the Run Stores". Convenience Store News. Archived from the original on July 5, 2009.
  31. ^ Koranyi, Balazs (April 18, 2012). "Couche-Tard enters Europe with $2.8 billion Norway buy". Reuters. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  32. ^ "Couche-Tard, Pantry Complete Merger". cspdailynews.com. March 16, 2015. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
  33. ^ "Cary's The Pantry stores sells for $861M to Circle K parent". bizjournals.com. December 18, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  34. ^ "All Edmonton Mac's locations rebranded as Circle K stores by 2019". Edmonton Journal. September 7, 2018. Retrieved September 11, 2018.
  35. ^ "Mac's stores to be renamed Circle K, says owner Couche-Tard". CBC News. September 22, 2015. Retrieved September 22, 2015.
  36. ^ "Circle K Transformation Goes Beyond Rebranding". CSPNet. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  37. ^ Halpin, Hayley. "Service station Topaz rebrands to Circle K, as €55 million investment announced". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  38. ^ "Imperial Oil to sell Esso stations for $2.8B". CBC News. Canadian Press. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  39. ^ "A dozen N.L. Ultramar stations being converted to Irving and Circle K as part of joint venture". The Telegram. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  40. ^ "Irving purchases St. Peters Road Ultramar, rebranding to begin soon". CBC News. July 5, 2018. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  41. ^ Intiar, Inda (July 4, 2018). "Irving Oil Buys 13 Ultramar Gas Stations Across Atlantic Canada". Huddle. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  42. ^ "Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. announces closing date of the acquisition of Holiday". PR Newswire. December 15, 2017. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  43. ^ "Circle K Stores Begin Piloting Holiday's Grab-and-Go Concept". Convenience Store News. July 11, 2019. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  44. ^ Hutching, Chris (November 20, 2018). "Circle K enters convenience store competition in Auckland, with plans for petrol too". Stuff. Retrieved April 4, 2023.
  45. ^ "Circle K makes foray onto Irish high street with stores purchase". independent. September 10, 2021. Retrieved September 10, 2021.
  46. ^ Lindenberg, Greg (March 30, 2022). "Couche-Tard Rebranding 12 Holiday Stationstores to Circle K". CSP Daily News. Retrieved August 22, 2022.
  47. ^ "Couche-Tard, EG Group in Merger Talks: Report".
  48. ^ Liz Hoffman; Cara Lombardo (April 29, 2022). "Convenience-Store Giants Couche-Tard, EG Group in Deal Talks". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Wikidata Q114685803. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  49. ^ Fernández Campbell, Alexia; Yerardi, Joe (May 4, 2021). "Ripping off workers without consequences". Center for Public Integrity.
  50. ^ Sieroty, Chris (June 17, 2014). "Convenience Store Employees Sue For Overtime Pay". KNPR.
  51. ^ "Judge OKs Circle K Overtime Suit as National Class-Action". csnews.com. August 27, 2015.
  52. ^ Ferrara, David (January 3, 2019). "Circle K settles overtime suit in Las Vegas for about $8.3M". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  53. ^ Bucher, Anne (December 8, 2015). "Circle K Wage and Hour Class Action Settlement". TopClassActions.
  54. ^ "Circle K Kicks Off First Multi-National Polar Pop Promo". Convenience Store News. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  55. ^ "North Carolina Football Club Unveils Jersey Sponsorships For NCFC And NC Courage". northcarolinafc.com. Archived from the original on November 16, 2017. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  56. ^ "LKL rėmėjų gretas papildė dar viena itin solidi įmonė". Krepsinis.net (in Lithuanian). Lithuanian Basketball League. October 6, 2017. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  57. ^ "After the success of their XM folding research produced enhanced Power Cubes,..." Retrieved February 12, 2018.

External links[edit]