Dollar General has been on a tear for a decade now, and the current pandemic, weak economy, and very high unemployment is only accelerating that momentum.

The company, which like its dollar store peers was deemed essential by most local authorities because it sells household products and food, said on Thursday that sales in the first quarter, which ended in early May, had increased 27.6% to $8.4 billion. Comparable sales, which includes stores open for at least a year, rose 21.7%. And shoppers also flocked to its smaller, underperforming rival, Family Dollar, whose comparable sales were up 15%.

That was far better than the growth of the pandemic’s other big winners, namely Target, Walmart, and Costco, which, unlike the dollar stores that do almost no business online, have big e-commerce operations.

The dollar store chains have grown in popularity over the decades by operating small stores of about 7,000 square feet, or half the size of a drugstore, and opening them closer to shoppers, with Family Dollar gravitating more to suburbs and Dollar General in rural areas.

What’s more, by offering a limited assortment of items, compared with that of other retailers, as well as thinly staffed stores, they have kept costs and prices down. For instance, a Dollar General store will stock about 10,000 kinds of items, one-tenth of what a big Walmart carries.

The result is that these stores dot the country and dominate markets too small to support a Walmart, Target, or Kroger. Dollar General now has 16,500 stores, double the number a decade ago, and is the biggest U.S. retailer by store count: Some 75% of Americans live within five miles of a Dollar General store, the company says.

“This ‘localness’ was a major advantage during the crisis when many households were reluctant to travel too far, and some were nervous about visiting big-box stores where it is very difficult to reduce dwell time,” says Neil Saunders, a managing director at GlobalData Retail. That has helped Dollar General, which got its start in the rural South, win more middle-class shoppers and expand closer to large cities in recent years.

But the convenience and lower prices are only part of why dollar stores have thrived. Long known for selling food items like frozen pizza and beef jerky, such stores don’t offer enough assortment to allow for a weekly grocery run, though they are practical for intra-week fill-in trips.

Still, as detailed in a Fortune feature last year, that is beginning to change. Dollar General has been moving for years to improve its food offerings, making a bigger push into fresh produce, meats, and healthier fare, all while adding more refrigerators at its stores, meaning it will keep winning a bigger share of food spending. It is even testing a format that looks a lot like a grocery store—with fresh fruit. Dollar General has also added products from better brands like Starbucks in recent years.

As for Family Dollar, the troubled dollar store chain Dollar Tree bought in a battle with Dollar General in 2014, it was able to ride the wave of stock-up shopping for many of the same reasons as Dollar General. But Family Dollar’s turnaround is far from complete, with many stores still shabby and a product assortment not as inviting to shoppers as Dollar General’s. (Dollar Tree, where all items are $1 without exception, is more focused on discretionary items like party supplies and less on essentials.)

GlobalData Retail said its data suggests that Family Dollar won far fewer new customers than Dollar General did during the pandemic and that many of those that it did win are drifting back to the other retailers they frequented before the crisis shut down some stores. Meanwhile, Dollar General said that sales growth three weeks into this quarter is on par with the first quarter and that it still plans to open another 1,000 stores this year.

过去十年, Dollar General一路高歌猛进,而当下新冠疫情、疲软经济以及极高失业率只会加速这一势头。

像大多数一元店一样,Dollar General因销售日用品和食品被大多数地方政府视为不可或缺。该公司周四表示,截至5月初的第一季度销售额增长了27.6%,至84亿美元。可比销售额(包括开业至少一年的商店)增长了21.7%。此外,顾客还纷纷涌向其规模较小、业绩不佳的竞争对手Family Dollar,促使Family Dollar的可比销售额增长了15%。


过去几十年来,一元连锁店越来越受欢迎,这些一元店均为面积约7,000平方英尺(相当于药店面积的一半)的小店,距离顾客很近,而Family Dollar一般设在郊区,Dollar General一般设在农村地区。

此外,与其他零售商以及人手少的商店相比,一元连锁店提供的商品种类有限,因而成本和价格低。例如,Dollar General一家商店约有10,000种商品,相当于大型商超沃尔玛一家商店的十分之一。

因此,这些商店遍布全国,但占据的市场份额太小,无法成为沃尔玛、Target或Kroger等的有力补充。Dollar General目前拥有16,500家商店,与十年前相比店铺数量翻了一番,是美国最大的零售商(按商店数量计):该公司表示,约75%的美国人生活在距离Dollar General商店五英里的范围内。

GlobalData Retail董事总经理尼尔·桑德斯表示:“在此次疫情期间,很多人不愿意去太远的地方,有些人去大型卖场购物会感到不安,因为在里面停留的时间太长,这种‘地方化’很有优势。”这让从南方农村地区起家的Dollar General近年来赢得更多中产阶级顾客,并向大城市扩张。


不过,正如《财富》杂志在去年一篇文章中指出,这种情况正在改变。多年来,Dollar General一直在努力改善食品供应,加大生鲜食品、肉类和健康食品投放力度,同时在商店增添了更多冰箱,因而也将继续赢得更大的食品支出份额。Dollar General还在试验一种新的经营模式,这种商店看起来很像杂货店,但却供应新鲜水果。近年来,Dollar General还增添了星巴克等名牌产品。

Family Dollar,这家Dollar Tree于2014年在与Dollar General竞购战中收购的陷入困境的连锁店,破浪前进,推行备货购物,其中许多原因与Dollar General一样。但Family Dollar的转变还远未完成,许多商店仍然破旧不堪,产品种类少,对顾客的吸引力不及Dollar General(Dollar Tree的所有商品均为1美元,无一例外,但多为派对用品等非必需品,必需品较少)

GlobalData Retail表示,其数据表明,在新冠疫情期间,Family Dollar赢得的新客户远少于Dollar General,而且Family Dollar赢得的许多新客户正重新流向他们在此次疫情前经常光顾的其他零售商,由于疫情关闭的一些商店除外。与此同时,Dollar General表示,本季度前三周的销售额增长与第一季度持平,今年仍计划再开设1,000家商店。(财富中文网)