Thursday, June 28, 2018

Home Grown

I knew of a couple of Dollar Generals in Seattle, they were located on Aurora Avenue a mixed bag of hookers and some Auto repairs, a Cemetery,  Chinese takeouts and an Albertson's Grocery.  At one point Aurora did not turn skeevy until it passed the Sears and even then there was a high end mall at the end to serve the North part of Seattle residents that lived in the well to do areas of The Highlands and Richmond Beach.   It was not that bad but in recent days it is horrific so no shock there were Dollar Generals.  These are the one stop shopping stores for the poor, those who live nearby and cannot afford to go to bigger areas to shop with the idea that they are cost saving.  Right.  I have lived in transitory neighborhoods but had a car or ways to get to decent grocery stores and other businesses to meet my needs.  I have never had a problem with transit or access until I move to Nashville, the city that time is attempting to compensate and in turn pretend it is a bigger city than it is.

There used to be a Dollar General in downtown but that closed and it has one Walgreen's which closes at 6 pm so good luck if you need an aspirin from drinking too much at the honky tonks.  The closest stores are up on the West End were Dollar General has opened its new urban style store DGX.  Never been in it never going to go in it. I have been to the closest Dollar General on 8th Ave and I am shocked it is still there given the gentrification on the street but it is still there.  There are Walgreen's and a Rite Aid down the road but if you live nearby you can grab a coffee at 8th Ave Roast and get an aspirin.

Tennessee is the corporate home of Dollar General along with such other fine industries as Hardee's, Core Civic, Auto Zone as well as Bridgestone/Firestone, FedEx and even Regal Entertainment. So you can get a ton of cheap food as guess where Cracker Barrel is located? Yep. The largest employers are of course in Nashville the Med and Ed field but the state itself has a diverse list of businesses, largely food related located here.   And is it surprising that Dollar General is here? No.  This is the South, people are paid like shit, the division among class and race is intense and regardless people are really really cheap here. So Dollar General learned early on desperate people are desperate so charging more for the same is not a problem in the least in exchange for convenience. And in the last few years these Dollar stores have been slowly consolidating and now Dollar General owns Family Dollar and Dollar Express, that is a lot of dollars. And with reduced competition it means less choice for consumers but stock holders are always winners. 

Food deserts are common in poorer largely minority populated areas. When I lived in West Oakland it was gentrifying but the closest store was a Pac n Save and that actually was an offshoot of Safeway with oddly higher prices.  When I first moved to Columbia City in Seattle it had not yet gentrified and the Safeway there was slow to remodel so I rarely shopped there as they had no organics or brands I used, then viola white people move it and upscale it went and Safeway is no Trader Joe's, the white persons Pac n' Save although Aldi has taken that challenge and raised the bar.

Dollar General is not saving money, just time and again this falls under availability and access. True you can get organic food now at Walmart but you have to get to Walmart and without reliable transportation you are straight out of fresh fruit.

Dollar stores are thriving – but are they ripping off poor people?

Plenty of items actually work out pricier than buying from supermarkets – but many don’t have that luxury

Joe Eskenazi in San Francisco
Guardian UK 
Thu 28 Jun 2018

While online retailers have transformed the landscape of American commerce, the largest three dollar-store chains are prospering offline, opening more than 1,800 stores last year.

The cost of a trip can be so negligible – the average customer drops $29 a month – and dollar stores have grown so ubiquitous, that it’s hard to countenance what economists confirm: visitors to dollar stores are often paying more than well-off consumers who shop elsewhere.

“If you’re budget-constrained, then you make choices that are not optimal,” said Professor John Strong, a dollar-store expert at the College of William & Mary.

The bags of flour at a Dollar Store just south of San Francisco cost only $1, but they also only weigh two pounds. Most bags in the supermarket are five pounds, and can be scored for less than $2.50 at cavernous retailers like Walmart or Costco – though these require time and, often, a car to access.

Dollar store raisins are only 4.5 ounces. At a big box store, however, 72 ounces of raisins cost $10.50 – meaning dollar store customers are paying 52% more.

Cartons of milk at a dollar store are only 16 ounces – which prorates to $8 per gallon, more than what you would pay for even top-of-the line milk at Whole Foods.

Deep-discount retailers have flourished in recent decades, popping up like mushrooms in the depressed locales big-box stores economically eviscerated in the decades before.

The Family Dollar chain opened up some 1,500 new stores between 2010 and 2013 alone – well more than one a day. Dollar Tree picked up Family Dollar several years ago, and its most recent annual report notes it has 14,334 locations across the United States and Canada. It is now a $20.7bn-a-year behemoth.

“We saw an opportunity,” Dollar Tree’s co-founder Macon Brock wrote in his 2017 book One Buck at a Time. “When a customer walked into our store, she could shut off her brain. She didn’t have to think, didn’t have to calculate how much she was spending. All she had to do was count – ‘One, two, three, four, five, six. I have six items and I have six dollars. I can buy this.’”

Some items are indeed more economical at dollar stores: toys, greeting cards, hangers.

And their allure is clear at the store near San Francisco, where Bruce Barringer is 57, retired, living on a pension and in an aisle stocked with medical products.

He doesn’t want to go into too many details, but it’s clear Barringer’s life has taken a turn of late. He recently relocated from Sacramento to the Bay Area and says he is going through a “transition”. He has “downsized”. He doesn’t need a lot of things. “But I’m on a fixed income,” he says, “so I really do need to shop at Dollar Tree.”

Seen one way, dollar stores, like a layaway plan or payday loan, are yet another manifestation of people of limited means getting around an unaffordable cost-of-entry by paying more to get less.

Strong, however, points out that dollar stores are often well-received in the neighborhoods they move into, which were economically strangled by the big-box stores on the city’s periphery. Yes, someone with the cash on hand to buy in bulk would do better to do so, but Strong adds that dollar stores are still cheaper for locals than the liquor shops and convenience stores they compete with. They are the least bad option. And, with vegetables, milk, eggs and meat, they’re often what passes for an oasis in the food desert.

“We have so many people who are pretty close to the line in trying to get by,” says the economist. “Until incomes are raised for the bottom third of the population, dollar stores will be part of the landscape.

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