How America Learned to Love the Dollar Store

Market-research leader Neilsen studied the opening and closing of retail stores nationwide between 2001 and 2008 and published the winners and losers. The most affordable consumer alternatives saw growth with the super-cheap leading the way.

Dollar stores—they used to be known for racks of worthless trinkets spread out among some semi-useful bathroom and kitchen supplies, but today these thrifty behemoths have managed to expand their inventory and clientele enough to become one of America’s strongest industries. So much for the era of luxury.


Neilsen’s survey found plenty of losers, the biggest among them being toy stores whose outlets shrank almost 60% between 2001 and 2008. Those troubling figures could be attributable, in part, to a growing toy selection at dollar stores, a growth industry that has become a runaway winner with a 34% increase in retail locations since 2001.

Dollar Tree in particular, the country’s biggest discount variety store chain, saw a third-quarter 2008 marked by a sales increase of 11.6% and the opening of 68 new stores against 13 closures and 36 expansions and/or relocations. Family Dollar, another prominent dollar chain, just announced 9% growth in net sales in their most recent fiscal quarter. The franchise has even become one of the hottest commodities on the stock market, its shares doubling in value since January 2008.

While the dollar business model has historically revolved around putting a bunch of cheap merchandise in a store, outlets have now started targeting specific demographics. Most notable has been the work of Five Below (ie: everything under $5), which has made a spirited attempt to target the teen market with affordable t-shirts, posters, and cosmetics. They’ve even spearheaded a grass-roots viral marketing campaign on Youtube.

But the biggest part of that changing business model has been aggressive expansion. With almost the entirety of their inventory priced below $10, dollar stores are now offering everything from clothes to toys to a surprising variety of groceries. While the stigma surrounding the dollar rack has slowly subsided, consumers have started finding their way to the local buck stop. A recent survey from consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail found that 60% of Americans had visited a dollar store in the previous three months. But maybe most surprising was WSL’s findings that 49% of consumers earning $100,000 or more a year have also visited a dollar store in the past three months.

An offshoot of Americans’ appreciation for the dollar has been the rise of the supercenter. With Nielsen showing more than 100% growth among supercenter outlets, these do-it-all mammoth stores have been seeing unparalleled expansion. Of course, the industry king spearheading the rise of the supercenter has been Wal Mart, a company that has seen openings every month. With other companies like Target, Fred Meyer, Meijer, and Kmart/Sears furthering the supercenter movement, the industry is projected to bring in sales of $359.5 billion by 2011 according to industry b-to-b publisher HHC Publishing. But consumers will probably still be finding their way to the local dollar rack as well. 

How getting in sync with your partner can lead to increased intimacy and sexual desire

Researchers discover a link between nonverbal synchronization and relationship success.

Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • Scientists say coordinating movements leads to increased intimacy and sexual desire in a couple.
  • The improved rapport and empathy was also observed in people who didn't know each other.
  • Non-verbal clues are very important in the development stages of a relationship.
Keep reading Show less

How humans evolved to live in the cold

Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Surprising Science
  • According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
  • Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
  • Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
Keep reading Show less

Stan Lee, Marvel co-creator, is dead at 95

The comics titan worked for more than half a century to revolutionize and add nuance to the comics industry, and he built a vast community of fans along the way.

(Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Lee died shortly after being rushed to an L.A. hospital. He had been struggling with multiple illnesses over the past year, reports indicate.
  • Since the 1950s, Lee has been one of the most influential figures in comics, helping to popularize heroes that expressed a level of nuance and self-doubt previously unseen in the industry.
  • Lee, who's later years were marked by some financial and legal tumult, is survived by his daughter, Joan Celia "J.C." Lee.
Keep reading Show less