Dollar Tree and Dollar General are the two largest dollar store chains in the US.
While they serve a similar customer base, there are key differences in their shopping experience.
We put the two to the test.
We visited a Dollar General and Dollar Tree store in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, a little over a mile from each other. Our first stop was at Dollar General.
There were signs on the door informing customers that the store accepts food stamps. These two chains count on low-income shoppers, and welfare checks typically drive sales.
The first thing we noticed is that most items cost well over $1.
Though there are some sections with $1 deals, most offers are $3 and over …
… with a $10 price cap.
There were a ton of bundle deals that aimed to get customers to spend more.
And there was a mix of private label and national brands.
Some cleaning products were stored behind perspex panels for kids’ safety.
We were impressed with how tidy the store appeared, even with a small number of staff working.
Even in the typically messy kids section, toys were neatly arranged.
And the self-serve area looked almost untouched.
Dollar General has been strongly criticized in the past for the lack of fresh produce sold in its stores. Critics say these stores often open in rural areas, forcing out other grocery stores, and creating food deserts.
This store only had a selection of processed and frozen foods.
One of the reasons Dollar General can keep its prices low is because it sells items in smaller quantities. In some cases shoppers may pay more on a per-ounce or per-item basis, however.
Despite this, we saw some options for buying in bulk.
There were several gaps on shelves in the store.
Unfilled space on shelves have become common across the retail sector due to supply-chain constraints.
Overall, the store was well presented and seemed like the ideal place for a midweek shop or somewhere to pick up cheap household essentials and personal care products.
Next, we headed to Dollar Tree. The company — Dollar General’s leading competitor in the US — also owns pricier sister chain Family Dollar and has over 15,500 stores in total.
At this chain, deep discounts are the name of the game.
Up until recently, Dollar Tree was the last remaining major dollar store chain to stick to its $1-and-under price point. In September, it raised prices to $1.25.
Despite this, we spotted a few $1 deals.
The tone of the store felt instantly different — it appeared tired and run-down.
While employees seemed to be in the process of restocking shelves, there was an overwhelming number of boxes piled up around the store.
These boxes were blocking aisles …
… and making it hard for customers to reach some items.
This felt unsafe.
Though both chains are known for their bare-bones design and no-frills shopping experience, this particular location was extremely messy.
Packages of food had been opened and were spilling onto shelves.
But customers didn’t seem to mind. When we visited, there were around 20 people browsing the store.
Other aisles were in good order.
The store changes its assortment constantly, which gives its shoppers a treasure-hunt kind of experience.
It also stocks a lot of seasonal merchandise which, according to Moody’s, accounts for nearly half of its revenue.
Though it’s mostly private label, you can find deals on national brands here too.
There was no fresh food at this store either but a ton of cheap frozen food …
… and confectionery.
While there are certainly deals to be had at Dollar Tree, the shopping experience was far superior at Dollar General in terms of the quality of the products and the appearance of the store.
However, if you’re after rock bottom discounts, Dollar Tree doesn’t disappoint.
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