Dollar stores tend to get a bad rap. Some people see them as inferior to other options, maybe because the word “dollar” sounds like something cheap or flimsy. Sure, dollar stores aren’t perfect, but they do have their virtues.
Here, then, are five reasons why you should shop at dollar stores … at least, sometimes.
Location, Location, Location
Dollar stores have some of the most convenient locations of any stores I’ve ever seen. They’re frequently found in strip malls, for instance, which are often easy to get to by way of main streets and traffic lights. Oh, and the parking lot is usually less frenzied than at a bigger box store. On balance, if I’m trying to get to a Dollar Tree versus a Walmart, I’m usually going to have an easier time getting in and out of a Dollar Tree.
Sometimes dollar stores are the only option I have. It’s well-known that Dollar General has planted hundreds of stores in rural America, including many places where the nearest store — outside of maybe a gas station — is 30 minutes away. I’ve been on camping trips where I need something — such as food, paper plates, or even extra socks — and DG has been an absolute lifeline. There is something to be said for that.
I’ve already mentioned the speed that comes from being close to a dollar store. I’ve found that often carries over inside the store, too. Because dollar stores tend to be less busy than bigger box stores, they often have fewer people waiting to check out. I’m not saying that’s always true — I’ve had a few Dollar Tree runs where I got caught in a long rush hour line — but most of my dollar store visits have been pretty quick in-and-out. I’ve even seen some Dollar General stores roll out self-checkout, which offers another way to get my things and go in a hurry.
Some Dollar Store Brands are Underrated
Let’s be honest: when you think of dollar store food, you might be liable to raise an eyebrow or two. But we’ve discovered that dollar store brands, including private labels, can be better than you think. We’ve had some positive experiences with Dollar General’s Clover Valley house brand, for example. We’ve also discovered some hidden gems among lesser known dollar store food fare, like Fast Bites sandwiches. We’ve likewise had some success with everything from laundry detergent to slippers.
I won’t say that every dollar store brand has been a hit. We’ve gotten some duds both in the food and non-food departments. But just because it is only found at a dollar store doesn’t mean it’s automatically a bad product.
Inventory is Better Than You Think
I’ve been writing about small stores, including Aldi, for a long time. And I’ve discovered this: small inventory stores are pretty clever in how they manage inventory. No, you can’t go into a small store and find everything under the sun like you can at a big box store. Depending on your shopping list, a dollar store may not be a one-stop shop.
However, dollar stores are sneaky good when it comes to inventory. They’re smart companies: they know they make the most money when they offer as much of what people need as is practical. If your list is a basic one, you might be able to find a lot of what you need there, including a range of staple food products and some non-food essentials. Dollar stores also carry the likes of office supplies, toys, and home goods and décor.
Dollar stores also augment their inventory. Keep reading to learn how.
Fun Seasonal Items
Like many stores, including grocers, dollar stores maintain a rotating seasonal section that changes with the times of the year. Those seasonal sections can not only harbor some great stuff, but they can also be useful and practical. During camping season years ago, I was in need of a smaller cooler, and I was able to find a competitively priced 3-day Igloo cooler at Dollar General for less than what I could get it for elsewhere.
Need a graduation card on the cheap? Dollar Tree has you covered. Need some gardening supplies? Dollar General can help. Need low-priced Christmas ornaments? Just about any dollar store will carry some of those.
It’s easy to pick on dollar stores. The names alone can make you think of low quality. But that’s not all of the story. Dollar stores can be a fast and underrated way to get things you need, whether you’re in a hurry in your hometown or you’re far from civilization. That’s why we tend to think your nearest dollar stores should always be somewhere on your radar.