Family Dollar woes: Why dollar stores have value

Family Dollar announced that it will close hundreds of stores, and one mom takes note of the value of the dollar store, celebrating finds from Christmas plates to teacher gifts.

Tony Gutierrezfile/AP/FILE
In this file photo taken Dec. 14, 2010, Family Dollar employee Pamela Ramos, left, assists John Conner with a purchase at a store in Waco, Texas. Family Dollar on Thursday, April 10, said it will be cutting jobs and closing about 370 underperforming stores as it looks for ways to improve its financial performance.

The Family Dollar retail chain has announced that it will close hundreds of stores, which might spur families to think about the value of the neighborhood dollar store that doesn’t come with a price tag.

As most families who are struggling to survive in a poor economy know, dollar stores are invaluable when it comes to everything from finding affordable groceries, birthday parties decorations, holiday table settings, and other sundry items, to teaching kids about finances.

Even as the economy recovers, families are still in need of low-cost supplies.

Having four sons means never having to say, “I’ve don’t shop at dollar stores.” In the area where I live, there are several dollar stores from which to choose: Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General.

According to reports, the operators of the Family Dollar chain based in Charlotte, N.C., issued dismal earnings report and announced plans to close 370 stores, roughly 5 percent of its locations.

Family Dollar blames poor earnings and harsh winter weather for the impending closures, according to the Yahoo report.

Multiple sources suggest the current economy is too healthy for dollar stores to thrive, arguing that dollar stores generally do best in weaker economic times when customers need to stretch their budgets.

This made me worry about my preferred dollar store chain, Dollar Tree, Inc., which was founded in Norfolk, Va. in 1953. It turns out this chain has not seen the same downturn.

“We had a very good quarter and in fact announced back on February 26 that we will be adding 375 new stores nationwide and moving or expanding another 75,” says Tim Reid, vice president of investors relations for Dollar Tree.

“We have a very different business model from other dollar stores because we’re the only one where everything in the store really is just one dollar,” Reid adds.

According to its website, Dollar Tree operates over 4400 locations in the lower 48 states.

From the time my sons could say “dollar” I have taken them to a dollar store to compare how much they can get there as opposed to a more expensive store.

My youngest Quin, who is a stickler for truth in advertising, will not set foot in a place that calls itself a “dollar store” if things inside cost more than a buck.

Over the years, and through living in many different states, my kids have learned how much, or little, a dollar can buy, and how to spend it wisely.

My husband frowns on my dollar store shopping trips saying, “There’s nothing sold at a dollar store that I will ever need.”

I’d bet a dollar he is likely sitting at a table laid with a table cloth, glasses, and part of his meal coming from just such a place.

I am not proud. If my family needs something, and there’s someplace I can afford to buy it then I am there. Of course, I’d like to be able to lay my table with finer things.

However, there is nothing more precious to me than the ability to provide what my family needs for both sustenance and small creature comforts.

When my husband is able to find hands on electrical tape, plastic containers, snacks, and a spare pair of gloves in winter, he has a dollar store to thank.

Before we moved to Virginia 10 years ago, my mom gave me a set of Dollar Tree Christmas plates that the kids still make me drag our each year.

It wasn’t until we shopped in the local store that I discovered that the “Royal Norfolk” stamp on the back of those “fancy-schmancy” plates referred to the Dollar Tree store brand.

“Yup, that’s our brand,” says Mr. Reid when I mentioned the plates. “I have them in my own dining room.”

When I first discovered where the Christmas plates came from, I called Mom who asked pointedly, “Do the kids still love the plates?”

End of discussion.

I’m pretty sure my mother has shipped most of the contents of her local Dollar Tree to our kids, in the form of everything from vinyl seasonal window decals to little solar-powered statuettes shaped like bears, flowers, and the like.

Whoever says “money can’t buy happiness” hasn’t found end-of-the-year gifts for multiple teachers, comprised of a solar-powered dancing pot of daisies.

Perhaps we could amend that old adage to read, “You don’t need lots of money to buy happiness. A dollar will do.”

Let’s hope that the next time any of us has a dollar to spend, there will be a place where it gets a family something more than a third of the gallon of gas it takes travel to a high-priced store.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.