Communities Are Fighting Back Against Dollar General and Dollar Tree—Here's Why
Some are taking a stance against the growth of these stores.
Dollar stores are dominating the retail space right now. While other retailers have been shuttering stores across the U.S. due to financial challenges, popular discount chains have been opening up new locations left and right. In some places it seems like you can't go more than five miles without spotting a Dollar General or a Dollar Tree, but other areas have taken a stance against these stores' expansion efforts. Read on to find out why communities are fighting back against Dollar General and Dollar Tree.
READ THIS NEXT: Dollar Tree Accused of "Endangering Everyone" Who Shops There.
Dollar General and Dollar Tree opened the most new stores last year.
Despite accumulating media headlines about retail shutdowns, store openings did outpace closures overall in 2022. Data from Coresight Research indicated that while retailers closed 2,603 locations last year in the U.S., they also opened 5,103 new stores, Retail Dive reported. According to the news outlet, this was the first time since 2016 that major U.S. retailers actually opened more stores than they shuttered, and there was also a clear type of retailer leading the pack.
Discount chains accounted for most of the openings, with 1,858 new stores overall in 2022. Breaking this down even further, Dollar General and Dollar Tree were the two companies claiming the title for the highest number of store openings out of all retailers. Last year, Dollar General welcomed 1,024 new locations to its portfolio. Following that, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree—which are both owned by the Dollar Tree, Inc. parent company—opened 393 and 206 new stores, respectively.
But some communities are fighting back against their growth.
Dollar General and Dollar Tree haven't received a warm welcome everywhere in the U.S., however. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit organization and advocacy group, released a new report on Feb. 28 showcasing the way some have been fighting back against the retailers and their recent growth. Since 2019, at least 75 communities have voted down proposals for new dollar stores, according to the report. And more than 50 of those proposed openings occurred between Jan. 2021 and Dec. 2022.
"With dollar stores continuing to multiply at breakneck pace … a growing number of citizen groups and local officials are rising to turn them away," researchers wrote in the report.
Some cities have even taken things a step further, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Their report found that at least 54 cities and towns—including Birmingham, Alabama; Fort Worth, Texas; Kansas City, Kansas; and Plainview, Nebraska—have actually enacted laws that "sharply restrict new dollar stores," like banning them from opening a new location within one to two miles of an already existing dollar store. The town of Stonecreast, Georgia, has been gone as far as to pose a total ban on new dollar stores, the organization stated in the report.
Leaders claim these dollar stores are hurting local communities.
At the end of 2020, Dollar General decide it wanted to open a store in Morgan, Minnesota, a small town of about 800 people that has just one grocery store. But Jerry Huiras, the community's mayor, told The New York Times that they voted down the company's plans after finding out the discount chain was known for undercutting local grocers with its low prices. "We just don't want your store," Huiras recalled telling the developer seeking a zoning approval to build the Dollar General store.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance said Dollar General and Dollar Tree single out marginalized communities and rural towns, killing off grocery stores and other local businesses in the area over time. "They typically locate next door to or across the street from the town's only grocery store, and often succeed in wiping it out," they explained in their report.
Leaders in cities like Toledo, Ohio, and Birmingham, Alabama, say dollar stores are fueling unhealthy food choices, reports The New York Times.
"Dollar stores are dismal substitutes; they stock little fresh produce and sell only a narrow range of processed foods, such as canned soup and soda," the Institute for Local Self-Reliance explained. "According to some city leaders, this has contributed to poor health and lower life expectancy. It's a reality largely invisible to people in better-off places, who might be startled to learn the extent to which Americans rely on dollar stores for groceries, or that Dollar General accounts for a much bigger slice of the grocery market than Whole Foods does."
Dollar General and Dollar Tree are still planning to expand further.
It's clear the opposition hasn't stopped either retailer's expansion efforts. Dollar General recently announced plans to open approximately 1,050 new stores throughout the U.S. in the 2023 fiscal year. Dollar Tree has said it plans to open up approximately 650 new locations during the same time period. And both chains have also spoken out against claims that they hurt communities by opening stores.
Company spokesperson Kristin Tetreault told Best Life that Dollar Tree and Family Dollar "bring quality products at accessible prices" to many communities around the country, with its stores helping to alleviate "food deserts" where there are few to no nearby grocery options. "We often take over vacant space in neighborhoods and areas that are already challenged, keeping centers and other adjacent businesses open and serving communities, especially those that are underserved," Tetreault said.
Dollar General gave a similar defense, telling Best Life that its stores often fill a void in areas where other retailers have chosen not to serve. "While we are not a grocery store, every Dollar General store offers components of a nutritious meal including canned and frozen vegetables, canned fruits, proteins, grains, dairy, and more," the company said in a statement, adding that it plans to rollout fresh produce to more of its stores in the coming years. "We believe the passage of moratoria harm customers who depend on us to help them stretch their budgets, particularly in inflationary times."