Cancel OK

Don’t discount the dollar store

In December, COO Jeff Owen said Dollar General doubled the number of stores with fresh produce in 2021, from 1,000 to 2,000, with plans to add produce to another 1,000 by the end of 2022.

While I may live in one of the most enviable places in the world for grocery shoppers—Austin, TX, a place where I can reach one of the world’s best grocery stores in less than 10 minutes—I’ll never forget my roots.

I grew up in a town of 81 people in central Missouri, near a slightly larger resort town of about 2,600 people, with a few locally owned mom-and-pop grocery stores.

produce with pamela

The bigger town got a Walmart Supercenter when I was in high school in the late 1990s, and it was a game changer. When I go back to visit, I find the mom-and-pops replaced with Dierbergs and Schnucks, but the outlying rural towns still had little to no access to fresh food…until recently.

Dollar General has been popping up at an increasingly faster rate in small communities across the United States. At last count, the retailer had more than 17,000 stores in the United States, with another 1,000 planned to open in 2022.

While some independent grocers rage against the big corporation taking over at the expense of small, often family-owned businesses, there is undeniably a need for more access in these food deserts.

I’ve been watching Dollar General ever since the company started piloting fresh produce. I railed against it at first, thinking there’s no way the company’s ultralow overhead and minimal labor model would be able to successfully merchandise a high-needs item like fresh produce, but they’re making it work.

A smart retailer like Dollar General wouldn’t be implementing self-distribution in perishables and adding produce to 10,000 stores if there wasn’t a solid return on investment.

Our cover story of the March/April 2022 Produce Blueprints looks into whether produce in dollar stores is a winning strategy. To read all the stories in the Dollar Store cover story feature, click here.

Others in the category are taking similar steps. My LinkedIn feed is full of proud produce professionals showing off displays at the likes of Grocery Outlet, Dollar General, and 99 Cents Only.

While the efforts are not the overflowing displays of SKU abundance I see in even the most humble H-E-B in my city, these dollar stores mean big business.

We’re going to see this category grow as dollar stores lure more customers and work hard to keep them coming back.

This is the First Glance column from the March/April 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue. 

Pamela Riemenschneider is Retail Editor for Blue Book Services