SEATTLE — The combined store count of the county's largest dollar store chains outnumbers that of the largest retail pharmacy chains as continued economic difficulties drive the channel's growth, according to a new study released Monday by Colliers International.
The study, titled "Dollar Days: How Dollar Stores are Growing in a Weak Economy," found that the rapid expansion in the dollar channel is due to retailers taking notice of customers on the lookout for value. The four biggest chains — Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and 99 Cents Only — now have 21,500 stores around the country, more than the combined number of stores operated by Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid.
"The rapid evaporation of wealth, both real and perceived, has profoundly changed the way Americans shop and how they define value," Colliers International national manager for U.S. retail research Ann Natunewicz said. "Dollar stores now serve a larger customer base, which is fueling unprecedented growth in dollar store leasing and a significant shift in the types of retail space they take."
The study also found that dollar stores have updated their look and the ways they present merchandise, increasing customer trip frequency by expanding their food offerings. In addition, they have gained greater acceptance as tenants among landlords, moving into better locations thanks to large-scale vacancies. Meanwhile, restrictions placed on landlords' leasing to dollar stores in shopping centers anchored by mass merchandisers and supermarkets is pushing dollar stores into other real-estate locations.
"The convenience they provide — better products at lower prices closer to the consumer — helps dollar stores to better serve existing customers and attract new ones," Natunewicz said. "Retail is habit-forming: The longer shoppers patronize a particular store or category, the more likely it is to become a permanent shopping destination."