Retailing: Changes at the Pump

To an extent that usually amazes foreigners, the gasoline station has become an integral and jarring part of the U.S. landscape. Gas stations often occupy all four corners of a busy intersection, are spaced like pickets along busy highways and spring up virtually overnight in new shopping centers and quiet suburban neighborhoods. Any thing that happens at the gas station affects each of the 95 million motorists in the land—and a lot is happening to both its look and the services it offers.

Last year the nation's 212,600 stations sold a record 50.7 billion gallons of gas, and the industry's sales...

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