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Dollar Stores: Who are they?

dollar general exterior

Most shoppers in the dollar retail sphere are familiar with the top competitors: Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar.

What they might not know is that one of the companies actually owns another.

Dollar General
Dollar General Corporation BB #:172794, headquartered in Goodlettsville, TN, is the biggest dollar store chain with about 18,000 locations and $33.7 billion in net sales in fiscal 2020. It is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DG.

It experienced a sales increase of 21.6 percent as the pandemic drove more consumers to shop at its stores that year, but 2021 is a different story. Sales for fiscal 2021 are predicted to either be flat or down slightly.

To strengthen its selection of fresh products and improve margins, Dollar General launched its “DG Fresh” program in 2019.

Supported by new fulfillment centers, the rollout served as test for how quickly perishables could be moved from distribution centers to stores, a precursor to increasing fresh fruits and vegetables in stores.

At the time, CEO Todd Vasos commented, “We believe DG Fresh could provide a potential path forward to expanding our produce offerings to more stores in the future.”

This proved true, as the DG Fresh rollout went well and by mid-2021 Dollar General announced it was adding fresh produce to up to 10,000 of its locations (up from just 1,300 stores).

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar
Dollar General’s closest competitor is Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., based in Chesapeake, VA, and is also a public company, trading on NASDAQ as DLTR.

The retailer operates nearly 16,000 stores in 48 states and 5 Canadian provinces under its Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree Canada brands.

For fiscal 2020, the company reported net sales of $25.5 billion, up 8 percent from the previous year. For the fiscal third quarter of 2021, net sales reached $6.42 billion, up 3.9 percent compared to same period in 2020.

For the combined three quarters of fiscal 2021, sales reached $19.2 billion, up 2.6 percent over the previous year’s figures.

Both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar experienced a rise in same-store sales, with Family Dollar leading the way, most likely due to renovations and product expansions at hundreds of its stores.

Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar, formerly one of the “big three” chains, in 2015, making it a more powerful player and better able to negotiate for lower prices with suppliers.

Family Dollar began selling fresh produce in late 2020, rolling out staples including apples, oranges, onions, potatoes, and other commodities at about 100 of its 7,000 stores, focusing on locations in food deserts.

Dollar Tree followed suit in spring 2021, piloting its new Dollar Tree Plus! format, which includes fresh produce, in 280 stores in 5 states.

Smaller rivals
Among smaller chains, 99 Cents Only Stores, LLC, BB #:189237 has about 350 locations, mainly in California, with additional outlets in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.

It is not a publicly traded company, but analysts estimate that almost 80 percent of its sales come from consumables, including fresh produce.

“Food is an important part of 99’s business, and we see tremendous opportunity for future growth in fresh produce,” notes Matthew Delly, senior vice president of food and beverage for 99 Cents Only Stores, headquartered in City of Commerce, CA.

“Our current fresh produce includes strategic partnerships with large brands like Chiquita and Fresh Express, everyday values on household staples, and a growing selection of organic products.”

In Canada, the market leader by far is Dollarama, with Dollar Tree a distant second. Others include chains such as Great Canadian Dollar Store, Your Dollar Store with More Inc., Absolute Dollar, and A Buck or Two Stores Ltd.

Dollar stores are expanding their food offerings in Canada, but to date have not made significant inroads into fresh produce.

This is an excerpt from the cover story of the March/April 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.