Dollar General's DG Markets Promise Deals on Fresh Groceries—But Experts Aren't So Sure
Can you do your regular grocery shopping at this dollar store chain instead?
Dollar General's recent growth is second to none. The discount retailer has expanded its physical presence to over 19,000 stores across the U.S. But that's not all the company has done for its ongoing expansion efforts. Dollar General has also created new types of stores—spreading far beyond the regular dollar store format that we're used to. These include the higher-priced Popshelf, the smaller-sized DGX, and the food-focused DG Market. At DG Market locations, Dollar General promises to have more fresh produce and grocery items than shoppers would expect from a normal dollar store. But just how true is that? Read on to find out what experts had to say about getting fresh groceries at DG Market.
There are over 100 DG Market locations.
Dollar General has been putting a lot of focus on its grocery store format recently. Over the last year, the retailer has opened many new DG Markets and replaced several regular Dollar General locations with this updated store concept.
The company is aiming to provide communities with "closer access to fresh foods" through its DG Market stores, Matthew Simonsen, Dollar General's senior of vice president of real estate and store development, told Winsight Grocery Business.
On the DG Markets website, Dollar General states that the store format is geared toward "quality at a great value," emphasizing its commitment to including fresh groceries at these locations.
"There's nothing quite like fresh! Fresh should be easy," the retailer says. "It's important to us that feeding your family fresh and nutritious food is simple."
Dollar General hasn't shared exactly how many DG Markets it has opened so far, however. But there are well over 100 locations listed on Google as of June 2023, according to Insider.
Some consumers have criticized the new format.
The new grocery-geared Dollar General project may not be winning everyone over just yet. Alex Bitter, a senior retailer reporter for Insider, detailed his first visit to a DG Market in a May 2023 article.
The store Bitter went to was located inside a strip mall in Fort Washington, Maryland, and he was instantly greeted with a green design that distinguished it from the company's normal yellow branding for its regular stores.
"I found the section of the store with fresh foods to the right as I walked in. There were definitely fresh items you wouldn't normally find in dollar stores, such as bulbs of garlic, avocados, and bananas," he wrote. "But some space reserved for fresh produce was partially empty or contained shelf-stable packaged foods, like chopped garlic in jars."
By the end of his shopping trip, Bitter concluded that he wouldn't go back to a DG Market unless it was the only choice he had—for instance, if that was the only store that sold food nearby.
"I could scrape together a week's worth of groceries here, but I'd need to rely heavily on canned and other shelf-stable foods," he wrote.
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There may not be as many fresh groceries as you'd expect.
Dollar General has said that it doesn't intend for its DG Markets to compete directly with actual grocery stores, Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com, tells Best Life. Still, the retailer's promise to offer more fresh food at these stores compared to a regular Dollar General may not hold up either.
"If shoppers are looking for fresh groceries at a DG Market, they may find themselves disappointed as these stores don't seem to have an extensive selection, much like other dollar stores," Ramhold says.
DG Market stores do appear to offer more food products—just not necessarily fresh ones. According to Ramhold, shelf-stable foods and frozen processed items can be found "in abundance," but the selection is still rather limited when it comes to fresh produce.
"At DG Markets, it seems like you'll find a scant few choices and it might be based on your area. For instance, you may find things like avocados and heads of garlic as well as bananas, but find a distinct lack of things like apples, potatoes, onions, carrots, and other popular produce," she explains. "Even things like milk may be limited to what sells the best from the location, so if you're looking for non-dairy alternatives or even something other than whole milk, you may end up out of luck when shopping at a DG Market."
Experts agree that DG Markets may not be the best option for shoppers.
Experts who spoke to Best Life conclude that people might be better off shopping for their fresh food elsewhere.
"While Dollar General's expansion into fresh groceries may provide an additional option for shoppers, it may not be the best alternative to traditional grocery stores in terms of quality, pricing, and overall shopping experience," says Jeanel Alvarado, a retail expert at RetailBoss.
And while many people turn toward dollar stores for much-needed discounts, the groceries at DG Markets don't appear to be cheaper than what you can find elsewhere, for the most part. In fact, they're often much higher at DG Markets, Ramhold warns.
"Basically you're paying more for the same or less than what you would find if you were to shop at a big box store like Walmart or an affordable grocery store like Aldi," she says. "If it's your only option, it might be worth checking out, but if you're on a tight budget, shopping for fresh groceries at DG Markets probably isn't the way to go."
You also run the risk of buying food that is of questionable quality, because there is a bigger potential for low turnover, according to Ramhold.
"If the DG Market in your area doesn't see a lot of traffic, that can mean turnover is low on products and that can mean that you're at risk of buying items that are close or even past their sell-by dates," she explains. "This could mean produce that isn't in the best shape and meats and dairy items that may not even be OK to consume for some people anymore."