The Kerman Walmart location was the first in California to open a gas station. More are headed to Fresno. Image via Kerman Walmart Facebook page

published on July 26, 2021 - 3:38 PM
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As Californians buy more electric cars, Walmart appears to be pumped up on building large new gasoline stations around Fresno.

In April the big retailer opened its first filling station in California in Kerman.

Now the company is under construction with two more stations in Fresno — one at 5111 E. Kings Canyon Blvd. and one at 7065 N. Ingram Ave. This second site will have a natural gas fueling unit as well.

Each of the new stations will feature 12 pumps and a convenience store kiosk displacing about a half acre in the parking lot of each supercenter. They are valued at $1.2 million each, according to the construction permits.

Since 1997, Walmart has had gas stations in California only at their Sam’s Club stores. They are now rolling them out at some of their more than 4,500 stores across the nation. When building new stores, Walmart said it plans to add its own fuel service stations in as many as possible.

The rapid rollout of large stations around Fresno is making it likely the company will continue to add more gas stations at more of their 18 locations from Fresno to Bakersfield.

Gasoline sales plunged during the worst of the pandemic in 2020 but have rebounded nicely, though not as high as they were in the summer of 2019.

Some speculate that with the increase in fuel mileage and the number of hybrid and electric cars being sold, gasoline stations may become unprofitable in the future. How soon will gas-powered cars be driven off the road by electric vehicles? One analysis says, ”If the large car companies have their ways, a decade from now the number of gas stations could be cut by half. However, stations will need to be available for older cars. The typical American car has been driving for over 11 years. But, by 2030, many of those will be gone.”

The National Association of Convenience Stores says 120,000 so-called “C stores” also sell fuel, accounting for the majority of gas stations. While the gasoline brings you in, the C store makes the business really work. But the entire business starts to look a bit like a house of cards when you inventory the threats. Boston Consulting Group calculates that between 25% and 80% of gas stations could be unprofitable by 2035.

The threats are not slowing down new construction.

Visalia’s largest gasoline station is being proposed on Whitendale Avenue and Mooney Boulevard at a former Toys ‘R’ Us parking lot. Bakersfield- based Fastrip plans to build a 24-pump service station at that corner. Tulare County’s stretch of Highway 99 is getting about 10 new stations.

Walmart competes with Fastrip in Kerman where they both are offering the cheapest price in town at $3.93 today, according to GasBuddy.

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