While there are a number of factors spurring the growth of dollar stores, including lower prices and their proximity to shoppers, the pandemic has factored into the equation as well.
“There’s no question more Americans are concerned about their health since Covid-19 than ever before,” says Phil Lempert, founder of SupermarketGuru.com, based in Santa Monica, CA, which he believes is one of the prime motivators for dollar stores to introduce or carry more fresh produce.
Bill Bishop, chief architect and co-founder of Brick Meets Click in Barrington, IL, concurs. “The availability of produce gives customers a reason to visit more frequently—it’s a trip generator.”
This has proven especially welcome in areas where supermarkets are scarce, and consumers have few choices.
“Since our unique extreme-value model allows us to operate in many communities that have historically lacked access to fresh produce,” says Matthew Delly, senior vice president of food and beverage for 99 Cents Only Stores BB #:189237, headquartered in City of Commerce, CA, “we’re proud to offer our customers a wide variety of affordable, high-quality fruits and vegetables.
“Our deep roots and large footprint in California give us access to the state’s abundance of fresh produce,” he adds, “and we’re constantly looking to expand our regional supplier matrices to find new partners to help us deliver the high-quality produce our customers deserve at the values they expect.”
In some cases, dollar stores are also responding to demands from cities and towns to provide healthier options for nearby consumers. Some areas are even considering ordinances to require dollar stores to sell fresh foods in neighborhoods where they are the only major retail outlets.
For its part, Dollar General partnered with Feeding America in 2021 to address food insecurity in rural and underserved communities, as about 75 percent of its stores are in towns with populations of 20,000 or less. The operational partnership was accompanied by a $1 million donation to the organization.
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.