DOL­LAR STORES CRE­ATE OP­POR­TU­NI­TIES, PROB­LEMS

Growth of low-cost re­tail­ers in Con­necti­cut part of na­tional trend

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sunday Business - By Jor­dan Grice

Shift­ing con­sumer habits may have led to the demise of sev­eral big-box re­tail chains, but they have also helped boost the pres­ence of dol­lar stores na­tion­wide, in­clud­ing in Con­necti­cut.

The top three dol­lar-store names in Amer­ica — Dol­lar Gen­eral, Dol­lar Tree and its sub­sidiary, Fam­ily Dol­lar — opened more than 1,800 stores last year.

With 30,000 stores na­tion­wide split equally among both chains, Forbes re­ported that the dol­lar store in­dus­try has sur­passed the likes of Wal­mart, Kroger, Costco, Home De­pot, CVS and Wal­greens com­bined in the num­ber of stores open.

While chain stores haven’t

“Con­sumers are also look­ing for con­ve­nience, so they would need to find a place where they could go and get ev­ery­thing done at one go rather than spend­ing money on ef­fort and on gas to go to an­other store ... If a dol­lar store turns up in those com­mu­ni­ties, the lo­cal busi­ness will be af­fected. There is no doubt about that.” Mousumi God­bole, of Fair­field Univer­sity

fared well in the grow­ing on­line shop­ping war, dol­lar stores are es­sen­tially Ama­zon-proof due largely to their low prices, which have carved out a niche among other lower-price re­tail­ers.

But though they of­fer con­ve­nience and bar­gains to shop­pers, there are some in­dus­try ob­servers who sug­gest the rapid growth of the dol­lar store mar­ket has placed added strain on lo­cal busi­nesses that rely heav­ily on com­mu­nity sup­port.

“Con­sumers are also look­ing for con­ve­nience, so they would need to find a place where they could go and get ev­ery­thing done at one go rather than spend­ing money on ef­fort and on gas to go to an­other store to get some­thing else,” said Mousumi God­bole, of Fair­field Univer­sity. “If a dol­lar store turns up in those com­mu­ni­ties, the lo­cal busi­ness will be af­fected. There is no doubt about that.”

In­de­pen­dent busi­nesses — par­tic­u­larly gro­cers, since dol­lars stores of­ten of­fer canned and dried goods — also see the threat to lo­cal store­fronts that rely on walk-in or neigh­bor­hood traf­fic.

“What you’re see­ing with the dol­lar stores is part of the re­lent­less price pres­sure that went along for years with Wal­mart and

now for the last handful of years it has been just as dra­matic with the Ama­zon phe­nom­e­non and on­line shop­ping in gen­eral,” Lav­er­noich said.

To sur­vive, he and God­bole sug­gested that lo­cal busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly gro­cers, could ben­e­fit from ad­ding more ser­vices and prod­ucts that aren’t car­ried in dol­lar stores to re­main vi­able to lo­cal con­sumers.

“The pres­sure on in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers is un­de­ni­able, and it’s re­lent­less and it’s not go­ing away any­time soon,” said Ed Lav­er­noich, Bridge­port Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion with the Bridge­port Re­gional Busi­ness Coun­cil.

Fill­ing a void

On the other hand, both ur­ban and some sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hoods have ben­e­fited from the dol­lar stores pop­ping up and meet­ing the de­mand for re­tail con­ve­nience and value.

While some feel the grow­ing num­ber of dol­lar stores may en­croach on lo­cal busi­nesses, mar­ket ob­servers sug­gest the con­trary.

“It’s a good thing from the per­spec-

tive that you’re ac­ti­vat­ing spa­ces, and, in some cases, you are see­ing lots cleaned up,” Lav­er­noich said, ad­ding that Bridge­port has seen a blighted lot near Ce­sar Batalla School turned into a new re­tail lo­ca­tion that now ac­com­mo­dates a Fam­ily Dol­lar.

The val­ley has also seen sev­eral dol­lar stores open in the past year, in­clud­ing at the Quarry Walk shop­ping hub in Ox­ford and in the Route 34 plaza in Derby, where a Big Y is ex­pected to open.

“It is a phe­nom­e­non there’s no doubt about it,” said Bill Pur­cell, di­rec­tor of the Greater Val­ley cham­ber of Com­merce.

To the ex­tent that re­tail­ers con­tinue to sur­vive shift­ing con­sumer habits, Pur­cell said, it’s prob­a­bly the surge of dol­lar stores that will cre­ate po­ten­tial ten­an­cies in re­tail plazas look­ing to fill va­can­cies.

The added ben­e­fit is that dol­lar stores are also fill­ing spa­ces and pro­vid­ing ser­vices that keep res­i­dents from hav­ing to leave their com­mu­nity or city to pur­chase goods, he said.

“I think the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits is that they drive traf­fic to other (lo­cal) stores,” Pur­cell said.

Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia file photo

Dol­lar Gen­eral on Fair­field Av­enue in Bridge­port is close to two Fam­ily Dol­lar stores in­clud­ing, one al­most di­rectly across the street on John Street.

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