Dollar Stores Encroach on the Grocery Business: Bad News for Public Health

Stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree are putting a lot of grocery stores out of business, leaving communities with fewer places to buy fresh produce.
December 27, 2018, 6am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Jonathan Weiss

A growing portion of the United States lacks a grocery store, in part because their grocery stores can’t compete with Dollar stores. "These low-priced 'small-box' retailers, like Dollar General, offer little to no fresh food—yet they feed more Americans than either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, and are gaining on the country’s largest food retailers,” Claire Kelloway reports for Civil Eats.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has published a study showing the way the story of dollar stores is tied to the long-running trend of consolidation in grocery stores. "The report makes the case that dollar stores undercut small rural grocers and hurt struggling urban neighborhoods by staving off full-service markets," Kelloway reports. Large chains like Kroger and Ahold-Delhaize buy up smaller chains and eliminate less profitable locations, leaving fewer local grocers. Those that remain struggling to compete. "These dominant chain stores have decimated independent retailers and divested from rural and low-income areas, as well as communities of color," Kelloway writes.

"Some, including dollar-store executives themselves, argue that a low-cost retailer seeking to go where no one else will benefits underserved communities," Kelloway reports. The ISLR counters that these stores have done a great deal to make the areas around them less desirable, by putting local grocery stores out of business.

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