Dollar-store chains are rapidly growing across the country, with more locations than McDonald’s, Starbucks, Target, and Walmart combined, according to a new report, which claims their rapid growth is due in part to targeting low-income communities.
The report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance claimed Dollar General and Dollar Tree — which owns Family Dollar — choose disenfranchised areas, and Black and Latino neighborhoods in or near urban centers, to set up shop.
Aaron Weber, a concerned citizen in Micanopy, said he fought a dollar store entering his community, based on what he argued are plaguing America with increased risks of obesity, diabetes, and cancer. “They are a public health disaster from what they sell,” Weber stressed. “I’d rather have a liquor store in my community than a dollar store, because liquor stores only sell alcohol, and dollar stores sell alcohol plus a lot of processed foods, a lot of stuff that’s high in sugar, cigarettes too.”
The chains have become a go-to grocery destination for cash-strapped shoppers, though Dollar Tree recently announced it will no longer sell eggs because the cost skyrocketed during the fall. In a statement, the Dollar General Corporation said the Institute “is not a reliable source for information regarding Dollar General, or our efforts to meet the value and convenience needs of millions of Americans for nearly 85 years.”
Kennedy Smith, senior researcher at the Institute, said its investigation indicates the stores are a threat to existing businesses, especially food stores. “And the concern there is that, by edging out stores that provide good, healthy food options for communities, they are actually creating food deserts, or exacerbating food deserts that may already exist,” Smith explained.
Dollar General said it offers fresh produce in more than 3,000 stores, with plans to do so in about 2,000 more this year. The company added its stores are often in locations other retailers have chosen not to serve.
Smith, however, describes tactics used to drive local grocers and retailers out of business. The report said since 2019, people in 75 cities and towns have organized to block new locations being built.