Mac’s convenience store banner to be retired as Circle K becomes global brand

 

LAVAL, Que. – Alimentation Couche-Tard is retiring the 54-year-old Mac’s convenience store brand as it unites under the Circle K banner in most areas of the world.

The change has been in the works for more than two years and follows several acquisitions that have added different brands to the Quebec-based company since its founding in 1980.

“Today we may be a little bit of distant cousins being from different banners and different companies. We think this has an opportunity to have us act more as brothers and sisters,” said CEO Brian Hannasch.

He said the change will accelerate the introduction of new products, including its house brand coffee, across its network of convenience stores.

The company (TSX:ATD.B) will keep its Couche-Tard banner in Quebec because of “unique circumstances.”

“The notoriety of the brand is so strong here,” executive chairman Alain Bouchard told a news conference on Tuesday. “It would be an even bigger challenge to change Couche-Tard to Circle K, so it was never really considered.”

The company will begin rolling out its Circle K brand to other parts of Canada in May 2017, following rollouts in the United States and Europe that will mostly begin next year.

No job cuts are expected among the approximately 8,000 employees that work at about 800 Mac’s stores in Canada. Couche-Tard already operates about 125 Circle K stores in Atlantic Canada.

The change will also see the disappearance of Scandinavia’s Statoil store brand acquired in 2012, and The Pantry’s Kangaroo Express, bought last year. Couche-Tard has the rights to use the Statoil name until 2018.

Circle K is already Couche-Tard’s most widely used store banner, primarily in the United States in addition to 12 other countries.

The Circle K brand licensed in stores across Asia is part of Couche-Tard’s future growth plans but Hannasch wouldn’t say if it’s a precursor to a large expansion or acquisition.

“We’re pretty well known in Asia today but this decision was very independent of our aspirations of growing in any particular part of the world,” he told reporters.

Couche-Tard acquired Mac’s in Quebec in 1993. Six years later, the company bought the remaining 980 Mac’s, Mike’s Mart and Becker’s stores operating in Ontario and Western Canada from Silcorp Ltd.

Mac’s Milk Ltd. was founded in 1961 by Ontario businessmen Ken and Carl McGowen. The name changed to Mac’s Convenience Stores in 1975.

The announcement was made before the company removed at the last minute a shareholder vote at its annual meeting to extend the voting advantage of the company’s four founders.

The proposal failed to receive the required two-thirds support from proxy votes cast before the meeting.

“It was a shock for me to get that answer,” Bouchard told reporters, adding some changes may be required before being reintroduced.

The proposal would have allowed the founders to retain multiple voting shares as long as one sits on the company’s board.

Under current rules, the advantage ends when the last of the four turns 65 or dies. Jacques D’Amours is 58, while Bouchard, Richard Fortin and Real Plourde are all at least 65.

Couche-Tard’s shares have surged over the years, including by more than 60 per cent in the past year, making the retail chain the 15th largest Canadian company by market capitalization at nearly $35 billion.

Bouchard said he hopes the company will double its size to about 20,000 stores in the next six to seven years.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said Couche-Tard bought remaining Silcorp stores five years after buying its Mac’s stores in Quebec

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