Ah, behold the dollar store: land of deep discounts and so many questions. Ever wonder how the products in a dollar store are so cheap? Or where they all come from? Is the food safe to eat? What should I really buy there?
Well, wonder no more. Recently, Brandon, an in-the-know Dollar General store manager, did an “ask me anything” Q&A on Reddit and answered some of our most pressing questions.
While, not everything is a surprise—we were pretty sure China was responsible for some of those $1 price points—our buddy Brandon did divulge some other interesting tidbits.
The greeting cards are a steal.
One of the best deals to be found is on greeting cards. Most are 50 cents to $1, according to Brandon. Compare that to a store like Hallmark, where you might pay $5 for similar cards.
Cigs are the No. 1 seller.
When they added cigarettes to their product lineup in 2012 and 2013, Dollar General quickly learned that smokers are some of their best customers. Brandon agrees, telling readers “the biggest steady seller for a single item would have to be cigarettes, around 600 packs a week sold at my store.”
You really can eat the food.
We’re not necessarily saying you should rush out and buy the $1 steaks, but the food (in general) should be good to go. In fact, some dollar store chains are expanding their offerings to include fresh produce. But, as Brandon reminds us, “It’s always a good habit to check expiration dates in any store, but you should be A-OK if the store team rotates the food.”
Bulk buys = low prices.
Brandon points out the advantage of buying in mass quantities. “I assume like any retailer the product is so cheap because it’s bought in massive bulk quantities (DG has around 20,000 stores to supply).”
He goes on to explain that most non-food products are made in China, where manufacturing tends to be less expensive. So, that’s why the prices are so low.
Laundry detergent is a “hot” item.
While Brandon shares that laundry detergent is one of the cheapest items in the store, it’s also one of the most shoplifted.
“The two most shoplifted items is a tie between clothes and Tide Pods,” he wrote on Reddit. “People were just slicing open the Tide Pod pouches and dumping them into a bag. But I’ve seen a lot of stupid things get stolen like, two packs hot cocoa mix out of a box, a few trash bags out of a box, a few Ziploc bags out of a box that were only a dollar to begin with. . .tons more.”
They sell beer, and it’s cheap.
A reader asked Brandon which items are typically the best deal to purchase. While his insight into cheap laundry pods and phone chargers is spot on, his answer regarding cheap beer is somewhat hilarious—apparently he isn’t a fan of Steel Reserve.
I get told laundry products. Beer is cheap too, same with phone chargers. [But, what kind of beer Brandon?] Pretty much the cheap gut wrenching crap. Miller, Budweiser, Natty Ice, thinking of Steel Reserve makes me puke. But I kinda like Bud Light. We have iPhone 5 and 6 chargers for $15, while the stores down the street sell them for $30-40.
Wal-Mart is their biggest competition.
And vice versa. According to The Motley Fool, “the dollar stores target similar consumer demographics, low to middle income shoppers looking for a deal. But because the dollar stores tend to be located in more urban areas than Wal-Mart stores, they’re able to provide consumers with the convenience their bigger rival cannot.”
But, Brandon’s insists that Wal-Mart is hurting his store: “Wal-Mart markets are the competition and ever since four of them sprang up around my city, my district hasn’t been breaking last year’s sales.”