5 Secret Ways the Dollar Stores Are Killing It

Source: Dollar Tree

Whether it is clothes, toys, electronics, or home furnishings, retail sales for many companies have been in the dumps. But there's one retail segment in particular that's exploding in sales and profits bigger than ever, and that's the dollar stores. The winners include Family Dollar Stores (NYSE: FDO  ) , Dollar Tree Stores (NASDAQ: DLTR  ) , and Dollar General (NYSE: DG  ) . What's their secret? Here are five different reasons why these dollar stores are getting rich.

Reason No. 1: The economy
It may sound counterintuitive at first, but the weak economy since the Great Recession has actually been a boom for dollar stores. For example, Dollar Tree CEO Bob Sasser recognizes that there is a "very cautious consumer environment," but he believes this has resulted in growth of the retailer's merchandise and in traffic.

Suppliers to Dollar Tree and others are seeing weak demand at traditional stores and in response are lowering their wholesale price points to levels that Dollar Tree can afford. This means more and higher quality merchandise available to consumers for the same $1 price.

Meanwhile, consumer traffic is growing according to Dollar Tree.  Sasser stated, "New customers are finding Dollar Tree to be part of their solution to balance their household budgets." In other words the more budget-constrained people are, the more likely they are to ditch traditional stores in favor of the dollar stores.  It doesn't hurt that the $1 at a time price point means, for example, that you can buy one roll of paper towels instead of six. The days of buying in bulk for some have become buying single servings to save short-term cash.

Reason No. 2: Fill-in perishables
Sasser points out that the "consumable" merchandise sales have been growing faster for Dollar Tree than the non-consumables.

Family Dollar Stores likewise saw similar results. While Family Dollar Stores' sales rose 3.2% overall last quarter, it was the consumables, such as refrigerated and frozen foods, that were strongest, rising by 4.7%. Chief executive Howard Levine stated, "I know for sure is that we have to stand for low prices every day, and we have to offer [customers] competitiveness on those consumables that [they're] buying every day." 


Likewise, according to Dollar General, "Consumables, which include tobacco and perishables, showed the strongest sales gains." Dollar General continues to see gains in consumables "in units and dollars over the [four]-week, 12-week, 24-week[,] and 52-week periods. [Its] market share in dollars continues to grow in the high-single digits."It helps that if the consumer comes in to get a consumable purchase, she may buy other things while there as well. It's the same reason why grocery stores usually keep milk and eggs in the back corner; It gets you to walk past a lot of other merchandise.

Part of the reason can be traced to simply convenience that is taking market share from the bigger retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Those stores tend to be once-a-week trips, while the dollar stores are convenient for fill-in trips to get eggs, milk, bread, etc. speedily instead of taking the longer trip to bigger retailers. Higher gas prices also play a role here.

Reason No. 3: The hunt
In our eBay-Craigslist-pawn-shop world, the thrill of the chase, the scavenger hunt, the treasure-seeking bargain hunter in us all is coming out. Walk down the aisles of Dollar General, Dollar Tree, or Family Dollar Stores and often you can "discover" items you never knew you could have so cheap. You may only be saving a few pennies, but the thrill of the hunt is exhilarating.

My own personal example involves batteries for the remote, smoke detector, etc. These vital batteries seem to always run out at the worst times and can cost $4 to $10 a pack, while the same things are available at the dollar store. Sure, the batteries aren't name brand, but the voltage is the same. Try them sometime. You too will probably feel like a hero.

Reason No. 4: The enormous volume
Dollar chains have gotten so big that it's now worth it for manufacturers of name-brand products to custom make smaller-sized versions to fit the dollar-store format. For example, you'll never find a regular-sized box of Post cereal for $1 at Dollar General, bottle of Heinz ketchup for $1 at Dollar Tree, or box of Cheez-Its for $1 at Family Dollar, but you may find all of those in now-reduced sizes.


Reason No. 5: Online competition
It's now worth it to the manufacturers to design and spend resources on developing production lines that are tailor-fit for the dollar stores. Years ago the dollar-store industry was too small to justify the investment.  Now having those name brands in the dollar stores encourages more traffic and more purchases, as it provides more items that consumers want. It also helps bolster the image of dollar stores away from a former reputation of just selling generic, inferior "junk."

There has been a big shift to online shopping with some retailers benefiting as consumers log on to their websites. Other retailers are hurting as consumers log on instead to competitor websites such as However, the amount of online shopping for $1 impulse purchases is still fairly limited due to the prohibitive shipping costs.

You can go to Dollar General, Dollar Tree, or Family Dollar and pick up a single wine glass or a bottle of floor cleaner or perhaps a sweet-smelling candle, but it's unlikely that you'll be logging on and paying for shipping for that same $1 item. This means the potential negative effect of online competition is absent.

Foolish final thoughts
It seems like a perfect storm right now for Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General. All three deserve a closer look by Fools looking for a pocket of strength in the retail sector. As for competition with each other, there's one thing you can be sure of: They won't be competing on price any time soon, at least among their true dollar-priced merchandise.

Speaking of hidden treasures...
Opportunities to get wealthy from a single investment don't come around often, but they do exist, and our chief technology officer believes he's found one. In this free report, Jeremy Phillips shares the single company that he believes could transform not only your portfolio, but your entire life. To learn the identity of this stock for free and see why Jeremy is putting more than $100,000 of his own money into it, all you have to do is click here now.

Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (13)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 11:09 AM, Spinner007 wrote:

    Good points on all the draws why people are really starting to shop at the Dollar stores.

    Considering the store costs of most of the items in those stores, many of those items are grossing up to 60-70 percent. Where those stores make up is on volume.

    And with almost everybody having a dollar in their pocket, along with the compulsive purchases reasoned with the 'its only a dollar' mentality, these stores really clean up.

    Would've been nice to get in while it was still seen as a passing thing.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 11:30 AM, MandiM wrote:

    Most everything at Dollar General isn't really a deal. I can find the same prices at the local grocery store.

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 7:07 PM, Biglittlejoe wrote:

    One time I got in trouble at the Dollar store because I switched prices on some items!

    = (

  • Report this Comment On March 01, 2014, at 9:58 PM, ScamuelJones wrote:

    Reason No. 6; Walmart!

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 10:12 AM, SWFLORIDA1106 wrote:

    Items like toothpaste,shampoo,paper towels,toilet tissue, dish detergent,laundry detergent,some can foods,a person may save a "buck", past that I don't think the savings is any significance...

    Perishables, you gotta watch the dates,same for

    cereals,cookies,etc..Expiration dates are often ignored and items still on the shelves weeks after

    the expiration date....You see, most of these stores are counting on you not be be "date conscious" to move these type products...I was told by management of a Dollar General, that they have someone who monitors dates on packages and are supposed to pull the products,but I don't believe a word of that...

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 11:59 AM, frugalokie616 wrote:

    Paper products, kitchen items, pedilite, name brand soap, BOOKS!!,cards, dog toys (be careful of food/treats), batteries, nail polish/decals. There every weekend. My end of month $$$ balance has improved.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 12:18 PM, unclechubby wrote:

    Yes I do know why they pay minimum wage and give 15 hours to most employee's and the two by my house have had a 350% turnover in workers in the last year. The only way to make more is to get promoted if you can last longer than 90 days. Here in Indiana they pay $7..25 for employee's, $8.25 for key holder and 9.25 for the assistant manager. The manager gets 30-40k a year works 6 days a week and puts in more than 50 hours a week which is all they are supposed to work. Its easy to sell cheap when you pay crap and fire people faster than the flash can run. I have worked retail for 20 years and this is the only company I have come across that does not give a pay raise unless you get promoted to a higher position.

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 9:11 PM, BEVbevBEV wrote:

    OMG I hate reading these stories about Dollar Stores. Family Dollar, Dollar General, is a complete different concept than these Dollar Tree, All for 1.00,Stores. How can they really compare them???

  • Report this Comment On March 02, 2014, at 10:25 PM, nickeyfriedman wrote:
  • Report this Comment On March 03, 2014, at 7:46 AM, BlueCrabVintage wrote:

    I used some shower gel from the dollar store once and my balls broke out in a rash.

Add your comment.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2852277, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/3/2015 6:55:32 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Nickey Friedman

Nickey is a select freelancer for the Fool. She writes about food & beverage, dry bulk shipping, and whatever else floats her boat. After selling four successful restaurants, she turned in her knives for a pen and now puts her passion for food, hospitality, and transportation in writing. You can send email to her at

Today's Market

updated 9 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 16,351.38 293.03 1.82%
S&P 500 1,948.86 35.01 1.83%
NASD 4,749.98 113.87 2.46%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

9/2/2015 4:00 PM
DG $72.25 Up +0.43 +0.60%
Dollar General CAPS Rating: ***
DLTR $67.59 Down -2.06 -2.96%
Dollar Tree Stores CAPS Rating: ***
FDO $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Family Dollar Stor… CAPS Rating: ***