While I shopped these stores as repositories of craft items (see Heather Mann's blog Dollar Store Crafts) and then as a place for inexpensive toys for the grandchildren, most of the growth in recent years is due to shoppers earning over $70,000 and who are anxious about that. They'll shop using the store's tiny shopping carts, which give the buyer the impression that even a small pile of goods is lavish. The secret of a good dollar store is in the layout and obsessive managers who can monitor 8,000 to 10,000 items.
On a recent stroll through a Dollar General in Topeka, the video above represents what caught my eye as possibly fashion or beauty related. As we shopped, another shopper stalked up and down the aisles loudly complaining to a person on the other end of his phone about some problem he needed to report to the FBI. DH was with me to provide cover for my picture taking, but he actually purchased two packages of men's cotton briefs that day and light bulbs. On another day, we returned to our local Dollar General for two more packages of underwear. 24 new pairs of underwear for $20. Men's underwear sales go down when the economy is in a slump, so perhaps this is a good sign for the American economy. As we drove home, DH did wonder about the working conditions of those who had made his new "small clothes."
You'll notice if you look closely at the items in my video that the majority are MORE than a dollar. Often the stores seem to be in disarray, a fact that seems to be a deliberate marketing strategy. The lines are often long and the clerks morose, as you would likely be if you worked for minimum wage. A recent article by Alice Hines at the Huffington Post wrote about DG's expanded grocery sections. Many of the new DGs have opened in areas that are devoid of supermarkets, or "food deserts." And some studies have found a correlation between diet-related illnesses and living in the vicinity of such stores. There ARE hidden costs to low cost items. Her article went on to describe communities that have fought back against dollar stores that look to open in their area, much as communities have banded against Walmart stores.
I bought nothing myself on this recent window shopping trip, although the bleach IS a bargain. I found myself wondering about shoppers who would not be caught dead shopping in such stores either for ethical reasons or because of the potential to encounter characters like the man on his cell phone. Are there people who would be as nervous to shop a lower end store as I would be to walk into a Hermes-Paris showroom?