Circle K

Last updated

Circle K Stores Inc.
Wholly Owned Subsidiary
Industry Retail (convenience stores)
Founded El Paso, Texas (1951)
FounderFred Harvey
Number of locations
Area served
Number of employees
Parent Alimentation Couche-Tard
Footnotes /references
[1] [2] [3]
New Circle K station in Colorado Springs Circle K, 1255 Academy Park Lp, Colorado Springs, CO.jpg
New Circle K station in Colorado Springs
Circle K Kawada shop (Higashi-Osaka Japan) Circle K Japan.jpg
Circle K Kawada shop (Higashi-Osaka Japan)
Circle K in Hong Kong HK Kennedy Town Balcher Street Circle K Sun Island English.JPG
Circle K in Hong Kong
Circle K station in Stockholm Circle K, Stockholm.jpg
Circle K station in Stockholm

Circle K Stores Inc. is a Canadian-owned American multinational chain of convenience stores. Founded in 1951 in El Paso, Texas, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 and went through several owners, before being acquired by its current owner, Alimentation Couche-Tard, in 2003. It is present in most of the 50 U.S. states and is franchised in Asia and Latin America.

Convenience store small store that stocks a range of everyday items

A convenience store, convenience shop, or corner store is a small retail business that stocks a range of everyday items such as groceries, snack foods, confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco products, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines. In some jurisdictions, convenience stores are licensed to sell alcohol, typically beer and wine. Such stores may also offer money order and wire transfer services, along with the use of a fax machine or photocopier for a small per-copy cost. They differ from general stores and village shops in that they are not in a rural location and are used as a convenient supplement to larger stores.

El Paso, Texas City in Texas, United States

El Paso is a city in and the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States, in the far western part of the state. The 2017 population estimate for the city from the U.S. Census was 683,577. Its metropolitan statistical area (MSA) covers all of El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, and has a population of 844,818.

Alimentation Couche-Tard

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. or simply Couche-Tard is a Canadian multinational operator of convenience stores. The company has 15,000 stores across Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Japan, China, and Indonesia. The company operates its corporate stores under mainly Couche-Tard, Circle K, On the Run and also under the affiliated brands 7-jours, Dairy Mart, Daisy Mart and Winks.


In 2015, Circle K unveiled a new logo and brand identity, and Couche-Tard announced that it would deploy the brand in English-speaking Canada (in parallel with, and in some cases rebranded from the Mac's chain), and in Europe to replace Statoil.

Macs Convenience Stores

Mac's Convenience Stores was a chain of convenience stores in Canada. The company was divided into three geographic business units: Eastern Canada, Central Canada, and Western Canada. It had been owned and operated by Alimentation Couche-Tard since 1999.

Statoil Fuel & Retail Norwegian energy retail company, formed by the 2010 separation of the downstream business of Statoil ASA into a separate listed company

Statoil Fuel & Retail was a Norwegian energy retail company, formed by the 2010 separation of the downstream business of Statoil ASA into a separate listed company.


Since the 1980s, Circle K has been the largest chain of company-owned (non-franchised) convenience stores in the United States [4] [5] It is second in overall number of U.S. stores to 7-Eleven. [5]

7-Eleven Inc. is a Japanese-owned American international chain of convenience stores, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The chain was known as Tote'm Stores until it was renamed in 1946. Its parent company since 2005, Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Ltd., operates, franchises, and licenses 67,480 stores in 17 countries as of December 2018. Seven-Eleven Japan is headquartered in Chiyoda, Tokyo and held by Seven & I Holdings Co., Ltd.. The most recent franchise agreement gives up to 59% of a franchise's gross profit to the company.

Within the United States, Circle K owns and operates stores in 35 states, primarily in the Southern, Western (especially Southwestern), Great Lakes, and Northeastern (Especially New England). Fuel is sold under various brands, with the Circle K and Shell brands the most common. Other brands of fuel sold at Circle K stores include Valero, BP, Exxon, Marathon, Irving, Mobil, and Phillips 66. A small number of stores do not sell gasoline.

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, Dixieland, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

Western United States Region in the United States

The Western United States is the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. As European settlement in the U.S. expanded westward through the centuries, the meaning of the term the West changed. Before about 1800, the crest of the Appalachian Mountains was seen as the western frontier. The frontier moved westward and eventually the lands west of the Mississippi River were considered the West.

Southwestern United States Geographical region of the USA

The Southwestern United States, also known as the American Southwest, is the informal name for a region of the western United States. Definitions of the region's boundaries vary a great deal and have never been standardized, though many boundaries have been proposed. For example, one definition includes the stretch from the Mojave Desert in California to Carlsbad, New Mexico, and from the Mexico–United States border to the southern areas of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The largest metropolitan areas are centered around Phoenix, Las Vegas, Tucson, Albuquerque, and El Paso. Those five metropolitan areas have an estimated total population of more than 9.6 million as of 2017, with nearly 60 percent of them living in the two Arizona cities—Phoenix and Tucson.

The chain operates in the United States, Canada, and Europe (the Nordics, Baltics, and Ireland), and has franchises in Mexico (It partners with the Mexican stores "Tiendas Extra" created by Modelo Group), Asia, and other parts of the world. In Hong Kong, the store is 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 and is now part of Convenience Retail Asia Limited. [6] Circle K currently has 349 locations throughout Hong Kong.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Tiendas Extra

Extra is a Mexican convenience store chain owned by Alimentation Couche-Tard through its Circle K division, which started operations in 1993. In 2007 the chain closed 650 stores and in 2009 started another restructuring plan. It competes fiercely with OXXO from Femsa, 7-Eleven from Casa Chapa and SuperCity from Soriana; the point of sale is provided by IBM. In 2014, Cofece purchased Extra Tents.

Asia Earths largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres

Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.

Circle K previously operated in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, acting as the food-store portions of many Shell stations. The Circle K brand re-entered the Canadian market in 2008, in connection with Couche-Tard's acquisition of Irving Oil's convenience store network.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

In Europe, Circle K is present in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Poland, Ireland and the United Kingdom. All operations were rebranded into Circle K by the end of 2018.


Entrepreneur Fred Hervey purchased three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas, in 1951. 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).

According to the Circle K website, Circle K grew its retail network through a series of acquisitions conducted during the next few decades, which were incorporated into the Circle K brand. By 1975, there were 1,000 Circle K stores across the US. In 1979, Circle K entered the international market when a licensing agreement established the first Circle K stores in Japan; Circle K stores in Japan are run by the Circle K Sunkus Corporation, which licenses the Circle K brand from Alimentation Couche-Tard. In 1983, the number of stores increased to 2,180 with the purchase of the 960-store UtoteM chain.

The Thirst Buster fountain drink was introduced in 1983. It is one of Circle K's flagship products today. Now known as "Polar Pop" in many areas, Circle K advertises that customers can buy any size for just a single price. The Polar Pop brand is also used at Couche-Tard-branded stores.

Karl Eller, a prominent Phoenix 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 to over $3 billion.

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." [7]

Fortunes declined in the late 1980s as the US 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 convenience store operator based in the Montreal area) for US$804 million.[ citation needed ]

In 2005, Taiwan's OK Convenience Store chain terminated its franchise agreement with Circle K. [8]

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 US. 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 gasolines. 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, Arizona 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. [9]

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. [5]

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

On December 18, 2014, Couche-Tard announced its acquisition of The Pantry for $860 million all-cash tender. The acquisition closed in March 2015. [10] Following the closing, all stores that were owned and operated by The Pantry, many of them under the "Kangaroo Express" name, are expected to be rebranded under the Circle K banner. [11]

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 Markham, Ontario, converted from an On the Run store after its purchase from Imperial Oil. ESSOMarkham8291Woodbine.jpg
A Circle K in Markham, Ontario, converted from an On the Run store after its purchase from Imperial Oil.

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. [12] [13] [14]

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. [15] Couche-Tard similarly acquired Imperial Oil's Esso retail locations in Ontario (228) and Quebec (50) the same year, and rebranded the stations in Ontario (many of which previously operating under the On the Run brand) to Circle K. [16]

An acquisition was completed in June 2017 of the retail locations of CST Brands, which had been based in San Antonio, Texas. There were about 1000 stores that made up the acquisition, most of which had previously been corporately-owned by Valero Energy. The stores had used the "Corner Store" brand name before the Couche-Tard deal announcement.

Frosters and Polar Pops

Fountain drinks at Circle K are sold in Polar Pop cups (previously called Thirst Busters), available in expanded polystyrene cups. Most American locations offer any size for under one American dollar, except for their 52-ounce or above cups, which are priced at over a dollar. The 52-ounce cups are plastic.

Circle K is also the exclusive US home of the Froster, a brand of slush drink.


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.

In 2017, Circle K went from IndyCar to NASCAR in sponsoring Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing for six races with a full livery.

Also in 2017, Circle K became the official shirt sponsor of United Soccer League side North Carolina FC [17] and signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with the Lithuanian Basketball League. [18]

Due to its sizable presence in Greater Cleveland from the former Lawson/Dairy Mart stores, Circle K sponsors the Cleveland Indians strikeout sign in center field at Progressive Field in Cleveland, where 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; if the Diamondbacks strike out ten batters or more, that game's attendees receive a voucher for a free cup of Polar Pop, while Indians 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 . [19]

The former Circle K logo. It can still be seen in Canada and Hong Kong. Circle K logo.svg
The former Circle K logo. It can still be seen in Canada and Hong Kong.

See also

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  17. "North Carolina Football Club Unveils Jersey Sponsorships For NCFC And NC Courage". Retrieved August 6, 2017.
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  19. "After the success of their XM folding research produced enhanced Power Cubes,..." Retrieved February 12, 2018.