Dollar General (NYSE: DG) will report its third-quarter results on December 5.  Discount retailers such as Dollar General, Family Dollar (NYSE: FDO), and Dollar Tree (NASDAQ: DLTR) benefited from tightening wallets during the recession. However, Dollar General cut its full-year forecast in the summer due to slowing sales growth. The second quarter beat estimates, but will the third quarter follow with similar results?

Dollar General has balanced its slowing sales growth by diversifying its product mix to include more brand-name products and starting to sell tobacco. However, Wal-Mart continues to reduce prices to help its own falling comps which could further slow Dollar General's growth. 

Will Dollar General beat estimates for the third quarter? Here's what to watch in the earnings release. 

Quarter estimates--and results--to beat
Analysts expect third-quarter revenue of $4.4 billion and earnings per share of $0.70. Dollar General has met revenue estimates and beat EPS estimates for four of the past five quarters. 

Dollar General will need to beat analyst estimates and its own performance in the prior year's period. The third quarter last year featured revenue of $4 billion and EPS of $0.63. Same-store sales were up 4% compared to the prior year. Consumable sales were up nearly 11% while seasonal and home-goods products nearly tied at about 9%. Apparel was up nearly 6%.  

It's also worth comparing the new results to this year's second quarter, when Dollar General posted revenue of $4.4 billion and EPS of $0.77. Comps were up 5.1% due to increases in both traffic and transaction spending.  The strongest segment was again consumables with 13% year-over-year sales growth. Seasonal and apparel were both up about 7% while home goods lagged behind at nearly 4%. 

Competitors' performance
Family Dollar reported its fiscal fourth-quarter results in October and the company reported EPS of $0.86, which beat estimates. Revenue of $2.5 billion came in slightly under analyst expectations. Family Dollar had met revenue estimates for the prior four quarters but it missed EPS estimates in two quarters during that period.

Dollar Tree recently reported its third quarter results. Analysts had predicted revenue of $1.91 billion and EPS of $0.60.The company fell short with $1.88 billion in revenue and $0.58 in EPS, respectively. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/dollar-tree-inc-reports-third-123100198.html Dollar Tree had met revenue estimates for the prior five quarters and only missed EPS in one quarter during that period. 

Family Dollar and Dollar Tree have both experienced growth slowdowns caused by the same problem Dollar General faces: strong consumable sales but constricting non-consumable sales as customers remain conservative on spending. 

Foolish final thoughts
Dollar General will likely meet estimates. That being said, segment sales growth could continue to slow, particularly in the non-consumable categories. Consumer confidence is still shaky and that will continue to benefit the discount stores like Dollar General in the near future.  

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Brandy Betz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.