The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License, Flickr.com

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The Stability of the Dollar Stores and the Importance of Grabbing Super-Bargains When You See Them

By Vicki McClure Davidson

 

Greenbacks, The 99-Cent Only Store, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Kole Imports... there are so many variations of stores that carry nothing priced over a dollar popping up throughout America. And they're flourishing because the majority of the inventory is not junk, but actual bargains. Some, in fact, are what we consider super-bargains.

I subscribe to a few discount store e-newsletters (and recommend that you do the same), and this financial information was released (late summer 2008) by Dollar Tree, Inc.:

Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR), the nation's largest $1.00 discount variety store chain, reported that total sales for its fiscal second quarter of 2008 were $1.093 billion, a 12.5% increase compared to $971.2 million in last year's fiscal second quarter. Comparable-store sales for the quarter increased 6.5%. In the second quarter last year, comparable-store sales increased 4.4%.

"Sales were strong throughout the quarter," President and CEO Bob Sasser said. "Our stores are more relevant than ever for the times, providing extreme value everyday on products that customers want and need. The sales increase was driven primarily by food, health and beauty care, party supplies and household consumables."

After being pummeled for months by news reports about the many falls and disgraces on Wall Street, the auto industry, and in the mortgage lending industry, and the disclosures that so many US retailers are closing down, there is great comfort knowing that there is a retail segment that is prospering, even if that retail segment is flourishing as a direct result of the shaky economy and other retail stores doing poorly.

US dollar stores and Japan's 100-yen Daiso stores are prospering during these financially rocky times. | Photo credit: blumby, flickr.com, Creative Commons

 

US dollar stores and Japan's 100-yen Daiso stores are prospering during these financially rocky times. | Photo credit: blumby, flickr.com, Creative Commons

Japan has its version of a dollar-store chain (items cost up to 2 dollars, actually) that is picking up steam in the United States—Daiso, which means "Big Creation". Click here to read an article about the Daiso stores. It was initially opened in the Seattle area in 2005. The first Daiso store in Canada had opened two years earlier. At the time of the article's publication, 2,500 Daiso stores were in Japan and 500 others were spread across Asia and the Middle East.

In Japan, the 100-yen shops, or one-coin shops, are similar to the dollar stores in the United States and the pound shops in the United Kingdom. In Japan, these are commonly known as "hyakkin." Apparently, the immense popularity of the Daiso chain ranks second to Tokyo Disneyland, receiving higher brand recognition and customer satisfaction among Japanese female consumers than Sony, McDonald's, and Toyota.

Dollar Store Bargains

If you already embrace and praise the dollar stores, you've known for quite some time about the regular bargains and the occasional super-bargains that lurk there. You shop there prior to going to the "regular" grocery store. For those of you who are wincing a bit, thinking, "Yeah, that's OK for other people, but I have my standards," maybe you're right. Perhaps this isn't for you. However, we'd like to convince you that checking it out on your own will have potential benefit in reining in your food budget. It's worth an hour of your time to investigate. The quality of items carried in most dollar stores is usually above average and the variety of inventory is growing.

Granted, there are some ill-made, novelty junk items in all of these stores. But, for a huge percentage of the inventory, there are so many treasures in these stores. You just need to pop in a few times and see what is available. And, perhaps adjust your mindset in your attempts to stretch the family food-budget dollars.

These stores, which used to be dingy and gloomy, are becoming more cheerful, better organized, and well-lit—this helps boost their image from the "depressing poverty mentality" they oozed not all that long ago. The fresh produce many carry is seasonal and although you have limited selections, the prices are amazing (for example, one pound of seedless red grapes at our local grocery store in Arizona is currently $2.99; not so for a super-bargain, 2-pound bag of seedless red grapes at the 99-Cent Only Store—50 cents a pound for plump, juicy grapes is unimaginable, especially during the winter months). Some items are carried for several months, others for only a few days. Often, it's hit-and-miss, making it a bit of an adventure. This forces you to make an immediate purchasing decision (which may or may not be a bad thing), because inventory availability levels are unpredictable.

Dollar Tree storefront in Kalamazoo, Michigan | Photo credit: JJ Paint & Glass

 

Dollar Tree storefront in Kalamazoo, Michigan | Photo credit: JJ Paint & Glass

And, it's not just food. There are some amazing deals in the health/beauty arenas. At the Dollar Tree store near my home, there is a vast array of beauty and grooming items—shampoos, body washes, moisturizing creams, fragrance sprays, baby wipes, hair accessories, toothpastes, mouthwashes, muscle creams, shaving items—many of which are recognizable brand names, for only a dollar. Same holds true at the 99-Cent Only Store.

Take the Mary-Kate and Ashley Coast to Coast Beach Honeysuckle body lotion that I keep at my desk at work. Originally, $8.95 online. I paid 99 cents. And I love it. It's not greasy and has a fresh scent that doesn't clash with my other fragrances. The scent is actually a bit reminiscent to me of my childhood in Southern California.

I'm kicking myself that I didn't grab several tubes when I got this one. By the time I decided this was indeed fabulous and went back for more, other gals in my neighborhood also found out about its fabulous-ness, and the lotion was sold out. I've been keeping my eyes open, but as of yet, the Olson twins' lovely lotion is nowhere to be seen for 99 cents.

But I'll keep looking for it... super-bargains always pop up when least expected.

 

Related Reading:
99-Cent Only Store Gumption & Imagination... Delicious, Cheap Meals
Cheapskate Lifestyle: Thrift Store Shopping Exploding As People Rediscover the Savings & Joys of Second-Hand Bargains
Dollar to the Max – Slash Your Grocery Budget at Those 99-Cent & Dollar Stores
Unbelievable Food Bargains Thrill and Help Financially Strapped Customers: Bargain Bin, Phoenix, Arizona
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Sources:
Daiso Canada website, (www.daisocanada.com/index.html).
Daiso Japan website, (www.daiso-sangyo.co.jp/english/about/about04.html).
Dollar Tree, Inc. newsletter, "Dollar Tree Reports Second-Quarter Sales of $1.093 Billion," August 7, 2008.