Dollar General, a popular budget retailer with nearly 20,000 locations, has faced challenges as around 60 cities and towns across the United States blocked its applications for new stores. The company claims that such actions harm low-income communities, criticizing the restrictions imposed by various municipalities since 2018. Dollar General had plans to open an additional 800 stores in 2024 but encountered opposition from communities concerned about the impact on their localities.
Small Town Showdown: Dollar General Faces Backlash as Communities Rally Against New Stores
One notable instance occurred in Cascade, Maryland, where residents rallied to block the construction of a Dollar store. Residents expressed worries that the historic and rural ambiance of the village would be compromised, violating zoning regulations designed to maintain the community’s existing density, scale, and usage types. Despite having three dollar stores within five miles, residents united against Dollar General, hiring a lawyer to oppose the developer in court.
The resistance to dollar stores, including Dollar General, has sparked surprise among experts. Communities opposing Dollar General expressed worries about large budget chains displacing full-service grocery stores, creating food deserts, and diminishing property values.
Some towns, like Stonecrest, Georgia, went further by entirely banning dollar stores in 2019. Dollar General responded, asserting that restricting new stores harms communities, limiting customer choice, convenience, and affordability. The retailer emphasized its role in providing access to everyday household essentials and expressed a commitment to the health of communities.
Dollar Store Dilemma: Balancing Accessibility and Health Concerns Sparks National Debate
Research indicates that around 249 million Americans live within five miles of a dollar store, making them the fastest-growing food retailers in the country. With $37.8 billion in revenue in 2022, Dollar General operates in all 48 contiguous states and plans to sell more fruit and vegetables in response to local concerns. While some argue that dollar stores are essential for low-income shoppers, others contend that a national ban is unnecessary.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a nationwide survey, revealing that low-income dollar store shoppers did not want to see dollar stores banned. However, respondents expressed a desire for healthier options, including fresh produce. Despite the varying opinions, researchers suggest that the legal process of blocking developments allows communities to deliberate on their preferences and needs, serving as a temporary measure to shape the kind of community they desire.
In response to inquiries, Dollar General reiterated its commitment to communities, emphasizing its mission of “Serving Others” and its ability to engage with government and community leaders to demonstrate its unique role compared to other retailers. The retailer aims to provide customers convenience, affordability, and access to essential items nationwide.