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Dollar General keeps growing

BY Mike Troy

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. — Dollar General maintained its momentum in 2010 by achieving record sales, profits and expansion; and it’s looking like 2011 will bring more of the same. Last year, Dollar General opened 600 new stores and remodeled or relocated another 504 units to end its fiscal year on Jan. 28 with 9,372 stores. The additional square footage combined with a 4.9% same-store sales increase enabled the company to grow total sales by 10.5% to roughly $13 billion.

Those sales were profitable too, with margin rates expanding and expenses declining. Full-year earnings nearly doubled to $628 million, or $1.82 per share, from the prior year’s $339 million or $1.04 per share. The company’s operating margin increased to 9.8% of sales compared with 8.1% the prior year, while expenses accounted for 22.3% of sales, compared with 23.2% the prior year.

Dollar General chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling noted the company had a great 2010 and that give it a tremendous foundation for continued growth.

“Our track record of executing our key initiatives over the past three years gives me confidence that the Dollar General team can successfully execute our 2011 goals,” Dreiling said. “We are off to a strong start in 2011. Even in a challenging macroeconomic environment, we expect to deliver strong financial performance in 2011, including top line growth of 11% to 13% and same store sales growth of 3% to 5%.”

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American Greetings presents a birthday card ‘Surprise’ for kids

BY Allison Cerra

CLEVELAND — American Greetings is making kids’ birthday cards extra special with its Surprise Inside line.

Each Surprise Inside card features a surprise gift pouch that the child can open to reveal a small toy that coordinates with the card’s theme, the company said. A sticker reveals to the sender what the secret gift will be.

"We know that moms love to surprise their kids with something new, and so we’re always working to get the most exciting and innovative products on the market right into her hands in the places she’s already shopping," said Carol Miller, executive director of new product concepts at American Greetings. "Surprise Inside really brings the birthday wishes in the card to life and gives the child a fun memento of the occasion."

Surprise Inside greeting cards are available at participating drug chains, grocery stores and mass retailers nationwide, as well as in American Greetings and Carlton Cards retail stores.

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Dollar General: On the move

BY Mike Troy

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Expectations of improved profitability at Dollar General mean the company will keep the pedal to the metal in terms of expansion.

(THE NEWS: Dollar General keeps growing. For the full story, click here)

The company already operates more stores in the United States than any other retailer, as it noted in the press release announcing fourth-quarter results. And that is a distinction it won’t relinquish any time soon with more aggressive expansion planned for 2011. By this time next year, the company will have roughly 10,000 stores due to the planned addition of 625 new units and 550 remodels.

That means more competition for chain drug stores, whose product assortments increasingly overlap with Dollar General, and other extreme value operators, who steadily have added food, consumables and health-and-beauty-aid items to their product mix during the past decade.

Brands are being emphasized, too. As Dollar General noted in its financial results release, it sells products from America’s most trusted manufacturers, including Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Unilever, Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nabisco, Hanes, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola.

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