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1A Remaking America: The anti-dollar store movement

Customers shop at a Dollar Tree store in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois.
Customers shop at a Dollar Tree store in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois.

The most common store in the U.S.? It’s not Target, not Walmart, or Walgreens.

It’s Dollar General.

The chain boasts more than 19,000 locations across the country. The company opens roughly three new stores a day, according to reporting from our partner station WBHM. And that’s not including the openings of sister brands Dollar Trees and Family Dollars. How are these businesses thriving?

According to the American Public Health Association, dollar stores are the fastest-growing food retailers in the country, but they don’t usually provide the same amount of fresh produce as conventional grocery stores.

Now, dozens of cities are moving to limit the number of dollar stores opening in their communities.

We discuss the playbook city reps are using to regulate their local market.

This show is part of 1A’s “Remaking America” project looking at how our government is – and is not – working for everyone. It’s a partnership with six public radio stations, including WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama. Remaking America is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Full statement from Dollar General:

1)     How DG stores impact healthy food options in a community

Although not a grocery store, every Dollar General offers components of a nutritious meal including canned and frozen vegetables, canned fruits, proteins, grains, dairy, and more. Today, we offer fresh fruits and vegetables in nearly 3,900 stores and plan to have produce in 5,000 stores by January 2024, giving the Company more individual points of produce distribution than any other U.S. mass retailer or grocer.

We also have plans to offer produce to more than 10,000 total stores in the coming years, with a meaningful number in USDA-defined food deserts, which further demonstrates our ability and desire to provide healthier food options to more Americans.

Additionally, we’ve worked with a registered dietician and nutritionist to create Better For You recipes to help our customers create healthier meals from products sourced primarily from our stores.

2)     How DG impacts local economies

In a wide variety of communities across the country, our neighborhood general stores operate alongside local grocers and business owners to collectively serve customers’ needs. We regularly hear from communities, particularly in rural areas, asking us to bring a Dollar General to their hometown.

3)     Recent worker safety concerns, as highlighted by OSHA and a potential third party audit agreed to during the last shareholders meeting

As a growing retailer serving thousands of communities across the country, Dollar General is committed to providing a safe work environment for employees and shopping experience for customers. We regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability. When we learn of situations where we have failed to live up to this commitment, we work to timely address the issue and ensure that the company’s expectations regarding safety are clearly communicated, understood and implemented.

According to the preliminary report of the Inspector of Election, a proposal regarding an independent third-party audit was approved.  We are awaiting the final report and will report the final results in a Form 8-K within the required period.

Full statement from Dollar Tree ( which owns Family Dollar):

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar bring quality products at affordable prices to communities around the country, contributing as both a convenient, engaging shopping destination, and an integral employer and community partner. We provide a broad range of basic essentials to families at attractive prices, which is a key reason we have consistently been among America’s most-loved brands for decades. In fact, 95% of our customers score us high on shopping experience, according to third-party survey data.

Our stores also strive to be good community partners. For example, we are a longtime sponsor of Operation Homefront, which provides emergency, financial and other assistance to families of U.S. service members and wounded warriors in our communities across the country. We also have a strong partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, raising millions for Clubs across the country. Almost half of Family Dollar stores are within 10 miles of a Boys & Girls Club and nearly 80% of are within 25 miles.

Our neighborhood discount stores are convenient, local and small format locations. We often repurpose previously vacant retail space in neighborhoods that have retail needs, keeping centers and other adjacent businesses open and serving communities, especially those that are underserved. We create direct and indirect jobs and careers, while enabling continuation of jobs with co-tenants’ businesses. Our stores also bring economic development to communities we enter, including helping to alleviate the effects of so-called “food deserts” by helping serve those who are otherwise limited in access to basic food items we provide.

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

June Leffler