Sunday, February 12, 2012

United States of Dollar Stores – dollar stores see a rise in households making $70,000 a year or higher as a customer base. What does the rise of dollar stores say about the middle class?

February 12, 2012

Before 2000, dollar stores were largely seen as a bazaar of quirky trinkets and plastic oddities.  Many sold excess volume of products, even selling old Super Bowl t-shirts of teams that did not win.  Yet the dollar store of today is not the one of even one decade ago.  The disillusionment of the middle class and the rise of a low-wage American worker base have created a booming business for dollar stores. Customers from more affluent backgrounds are now shopping at these stores because of an economic caution about their declining purchasing power.  Even in the midst of the boom in the stock market we still have over 45,000,000+ Americans receiving food assistance.  I talked about this large segment of our population in EBT Nation.  What does the rise of the dollar store tell us about the future of the American economy?
Dollar Store growth
Dollar stores have been around for many decades but the surge in big name dollar stores really hit a full head of steam once the recession arrived:
dollar general and family dollar chart stock
You can see that the two leading dollar stores, Dollar General and Family Dollar hit full stride after 2008.  This is a billion dollar business that is benefitting from the weakness in theoverall economy.  As more income is concentrated in fewer hands, the middle class gets squeezed down and with trillion dollar bailouts targeted at the financial sector, many Americans are seeing their purchasing power dwindle.  Yet this compression is not felt as heavily at dollar stores where many can live large with a declining dollar, even if it is only for a brief shopping experience.

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