Dollar stores fare well during economic downturn


July 8, 2010 at 2:08 a.m.
Updated July 10, 2010 at 2:10 a.m.

The items that grace dollar store windows run the gamut of consumer categories. From pool floaties to soda bottles, small toys to household cleaners, it's all there.

And, while the price tags might be small, the sales are big.

Even during an economic downturn, dollar store sales are on the rise.

In 2009, dollar and discount stores became more attractive to the American family, according to a National Retail Federation news release.

Three such stores climbed spots in the federation's annual "Top 100 Retailers" report, which ranks retailers based on U.S. retail sales.

Those include Dollar General, which rose seven spots, to No. 28, Family Dollar, which now sits at No. 45 and Dollar Tree, which rose 15 spots, to No. 56.

An ailing economy, combined with rising health care, education and food costs, likely contribute to the industry's rise, Jeff Gregori, vice president of retail services for The Nielsen Company, said in a news release.

It has many people rethinking their shopping methods.

"Five years ago, shoppers weren't sure what they would find in a dollar store," he said in the release. "Today, dollar stores are delivering more consistent selection and value, and consumers are shopping dollar stores more regularly to fulfill their basic (consumer packaged goods) needs."

General housecleaning supplies are the big sellers at the Family Dollar Store on Sam Houston Drive, said Jessica Rodriguez, the store's assistant manager.

And, although she said she hasn't been at that location for very long, she said business is up from last year.

"Even with the weather being like this," she said on the drizzly Friday afternoon. "We stay pretty steady."

It's the everyday household items, such as baby bottles, soap and toilet paper that Victoria resident Eva Gone picks up when she goes into such stores.

"You can find good stuff," she said, seated at a table with family members as they waited to start a picnic. "And it's cheap."

But Juan Flores, a young boy also awaiting the meal, said he has other things in mind when he shops.

"I like the cheap toys," he said, smiling.

Victoria resident Jaime Almanzar is a regular at the Dollar General on Moody Street. It's close to his home, he said, and the items are inexpensive.

His favorite store, however, is Dollar Tree. The only problem, he said, is it's a longer drive.

"You can't beat Dollar Tree," Almanzar said, keeping his eyes trained on his family members, who were feeding animals at Riverside Park's duck pond. "There, everything's a dollar. It's great."

It helps to be thrifty, Almanzar said, explaining he was recently laid off from his job.

Not every dollar store fares the same, however.

Siraj Sarkar, who owns Dollar King on Laurent Street, said the down economy has hurt, especially since his store sells more knickknacks, rather than things people absolutely need.

It's just like any other business, he said.

"People are not buying as much as they used to buy when they come in," Sarkar explained. "When the economy was good we did good. But when it's bad, we hurt, too."



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