Dollar store chains are among America’s fastest-growing retailers, but their impact on the industry is coming under increased scrutiny.
Nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance reports that dollar stores are more prevalent than Walmart and McDonalds locations combined, and they feed more people than Whole Foods stores. In some urban neighborhoods, low-income and rural areas, dollar stores might be one of the only retail options for residents.
The number of dollar stores in America has grown from 20,000 in 2011 to almost 30,000, per ILSR. With many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, it’s not surprising these small-box stores selling affordable merchandise are thriving.
The ILSR report contends that dollar stores — which lack fresh produce and meat but offer a host of frozen, processed and canned food options — aren’t a symptom of economic distress in some communities, but the cause of it, as they stifle independent grocers and other local retailers.
“To the extent that dollar stores are filling, in some ways, a need in communities, I think that is true in the short term,” Marie Donahue, one of the report’s authors, told Civil Eats. “But really our research is demonstrating…those foods aren’t as good quality as full-service grocers or independent local stores, which may be able to connect to local farmers and the larger food system.”