Our Subjective Ranking of Dollar Stores

Image by morzaszum from Pixabay

Dollar stores can be a controversial subject. Some people praise them as convenient, affordable places to get what you need and get out. Others view them as predators who crowd out other stores while offering a less-than-ideal selection.

Love them or hate them, though, dollar stores don’t appear to be going anywhere. Quite the opposite: the store count grows every year as the big retailers with little stores edge into new places.

I’m not here to settle any debates over the ethics of dollar stores. What I am going to do is offer our own (admittedly subjective) ranking of dollar stores out there, based on what we think delivers the best value for shoppers.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments — just be mindful of our Community Guidelines.

5. 99 Cents Only Stores

Headquarters: Commerce, California

Stores in the United States: 390+

What We Like: The extreme discounter has shown a knack for self-promotion. It is one of the only stores we know of where things are priced $0.9999 — yes, you read that right — and its slogans have a cult following. The stores earn generally favorable ratings from customers and carry fresh produce, something you rarely see in dollar stores.

What We Don’t Like: Unless you live in or have visited the right parts of California, Arizona, Nevada, or Texas, you probably haven’t set foot in one of these. What’s more, the store has struggled with revenue and analysts view it as being at risk for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

4. Five Below

Headquarters: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Stores in the United States: 1,150+

What We Like: Five Below is a hip store, with clever and creative stuff that you won’t find at your typical discount retailer. Walk into one of these and you’re going to see electronics, art, toys, and one of the more interesting collections of t-shirts you’ll find at a retailer of this size. We’ve unearthed some nifty gems at the store over the years. What’s more, Five Below continues to expand and is, as of this writing, in 44 states.

What We Don’t Like: Five Below isn’t for everybody. Its focus is on curiosities rather than staples, and that limits the store’s value compared to a more traditionally designed dollar store. That’s a big reason why it isn’t higher on this list.

3. Dollar Tree

Headquarters: Chesapeake, Virginia

Stores in the United States: ~8,000

What We Like: Dollar Tree is the original extreme discounter. For a long time, the store sold everything at a dollar, making shopping there as straightforward an experience as you would find anywhere. The store only recently lifted prices to $1.25 and has since added a collection of $3 and $5 products. We think that, on the whole, the price increases have helped improve the Dollar Tree experience.

What We Don’t Like: While we really want to like Dollar Tree, our experiences with the store haven’t been great. The products themselves have, more often than not, been underwhelming, and they’re not always even a great value for the price. Some of the food and beverages are just plain bad, enough that we’re pretty skittish about getting those products at DT. The service side is a disappointment too — since Dollar Tree in our area is more popular than other dollar stores, checkout can be a long, lackluster affair.

2. Family Dollar

Headquarters: Chesapeake, Virginia

Stores in the United States: ~8,000

What We Like: Despite now being owned by Dollar Tree, Family Dollar has a different vibe from its extreme discounter parent. Family Dollar has a wide selection of products at various prices, including well-known name brands and house brands that are generally decent. It’s not a true one-stop shop, but you can get a lot of the major things you need in one trip.

What We Don’t Like: Family Dollar lacks much in the area of fresh foods, and many of the stores we’ve walked into aren’t always in peak form. The selection overall is good but not always as good as the top store on our list.

1. Dollar General

Headquarters: Goodlettsville, Tennessee

Stores in the United States: 19,400+

What We Like: DG is the undisputed kingpin of the dollar store space. There are stores virtually everywhere, from inner cities to remote rural areas. Dollar General has done something to plug food deserts, as there are places where the chain is the only food store outside of a gas station within 15-20 minutes. We’ve seen it: Dollar General has proved useful for us on many a camping trip where we needed a staple item or accessory. The selection is generally good, with a mix of inexpensive private label items alongside national brands.

What We Don’t Like: We think Dollar General is the best of the dollar stores, but that doesn’t make it perfect. Philosophically speaking, if the dollar store industry were a drama, some people would no doubt view DG as a villain, putting local stores out of business in the same way Walmart has. On a more practical level, Dollar General is lacking in fresh food selection — it’s not a replacement for a full grocer — and store service can be lean.

About Joshua

Joshua is the Co-founder of Dollar Store Reviewer. He is also a writer and novelist. You can learn more about him at joshuaajohnston.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *