(Nov. 20) It’s not planning to challenge Wal-Mart, but there’s something in the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant’s success that appears to have inspired Dollar General Corp.
Specifically, Dollar General, a discount retail chain based in Goodlettsville, Tenn., is expanding into food sales — including fresh produce.
Dollar General, which in 2003 opened its first two Dollar General Market stores in the Tennessee communities of Hendersonville and Pleasant View, announced Nov. 17 that it plans to open 20 more of the stores — along with 675 more of its traditional-format stores — in 2004.
The chain has more than 6,600 Dollar General stores in 27 states. Most units are in small towns and rural communities, and the company says that it will open its new stores in those types of markets.
Dollar General Market stores — at about 16,000 square feet — are about 2½ times larger than the standard Dollar General stores and offer an expanded selection of merchandise, including fresh produce and frozen food items.
The company said that while most of these new stores will be in its existing market area, it expects to open stores in three new states —Wisconsin, Arizona and New Mexico — in 2004.
But the company would not say where the new Dollar General Market units would be or what types of produce items they would offer.
“We haven’t disclosed specifics regarding the number of (stock-keeping units) that we carry in the produce section or any section of our store,” said Andrea Turner, a spokeswoman for the company. “It’s pretty much a work in progress. Both current stores are considered tests, as will be the additional 20 stores that we open in 2004.”
She added that the company had not set a timetable on evaluating the success of the format.
The Dollar General Market store in Hendersonville carries a line of staple items, including apples, potatoes, cabbage, lettuce, celery, bananas, oranges, apples, bagged iceberg salads, and even mangoes, said a store manager who requested that he not be identified.
He added that was not sure whether the store would be expanding its selection.
Ed Odron, president of Produce Marketing Consultants, a Stockton, Calif.-based retail consulting firm, said, nevertheless, that that company is taking a positive step by offering fresh fruits and vegetables.
“It surprises me, but it doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “You’re looking at everybody trying to increase sales any way they can, no matter who they are. Look at the 7-Elevens across the world that are carrying all kinds of food products. Everybody is looking every which way to increase their dollar sales and profits.”