We compared shopping at Dollar Tree and Dollar General, and the first was so messy, we could barely move in the aisles

Shoshy Ciment/Business InsiderThe Dollar Tree in Jersey City that we visited was messy beyond belief.

Dollar stores are on the rise. Some chains, it seems, are doing better than others.

Dollar General is doing particularly well. The company plans to open 975 new stores and remodel 1,000 existing stores. Its net sales increased by 8.4% in the second quarter.

Dollar Tree is practically neck-and-neck with Dollar General in terms of store count and annual sales. The company acquired Family Dollar in 2015, following a bidding war with Dollar General. Its net sales also increased in the second quarter – by 3.9%.


Read more:
We visited nearly 40 stores in 3 months, and the messiest of the bunch is also one of the most successful right now

Though almost every item in Dollar Tree stores goes for $US1, the company is testing adding more expensive merchandise to some stores to boost sales with its Dollar Tree Plus! initiative.

We visited both stores to see which was better. Dollar Tree was an overall cheaper experience, from the actual prices to the quality of shopping. The store was a disaster to navigate and featured dozens of boxes lining almost every aisle.

Dollar General was a welcome reprieve from the mayhem of Dollar Tree. And though not all of the items there went for $US1, Dollar General was the better store by a longshot.

Here’s what we saw:

If you’re a Dollar Tree or Dollar General employee with a story to share, email [email protected]


The brick facade of Dollar Tree looked promising and we entered ready to find some deals.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

One look inside made it clear that we were not in for a luxury shopping experience. The store had a drab interior with a floor that looked like it was in need of a good wash.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Plus, the table meant to display select items at the front of the store was far from appealing.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The front of the store was decked out with Halloween-themed merchandise.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

But the mess here was the scariest thing by far. We found an open can of Pepsi hanging out on an already cluttered shelf of miscellaneous items.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Though there were some interesting items here, the clutter and disorganization was distracting. Plus the walkway was lined with boxes.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

It didn’t take long for us to realise the entire store would be characterised by this mess. In addition to random items strewn on the floor, there were boxes everywhere.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

If the boxes weren’t all over the floor, they looked like they were about to topple over.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

It seemed as though the store was in the process of unloading merchandise onto shelves. However, many carts looked completely neglected.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We meandered our way through the store and found some useful items along the way. This hardware section was one of the cleaner sections we saw.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We also found some coloured party supplies that looked like a good bargain.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The scented candle display in the back was a nice reprieve from the disaster zones in the rest of the store. We picked up an apple and vanilla-scented candle for $US1.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Even though the store was hard to look at, the fact that every single item was $US1 was extremely appealing and probably the store’s biggest advantage.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

If we ignored the mess, we found that the deals were off the charts. We especially loved the greeting card section, which had cards for practically every occasion.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We also determined that Dollar Tree was probably the best place to stop to pick up some candy. For $US1 a pack and with all the name-brands, you could not do better.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We even picked up a little bag of miniature Reese’s Cups.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

But at a certain point, the mess became completely overwhelming. We could barely see across certain aisles, as they were completely blocked with boxes of merchandise.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

To be sure, there were some aisles that were clean. But these were rare.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

For the most part, we could barely make it through the store without stumbling upon a mess.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

And in some places, the shelves were completely devoid of merchandise.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The food section was surprisingly well-stocked and featured some popular brands that were definitely appealing.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

And we also picked up some classic red party cups for $US1.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

However, the mess in the frozen section was rather frightening …

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… and the mess awaiting us at the front of the store was even worse, where we happened to notice a station for buying balloons.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The store mostly looked a disaster zone.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Even though the store was a complete mess, we couldn’t help but feel somewhat satisfied with our cheap purchases.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We would certainly come back to a Dollar Tree for the deals, despite the off-putting store experience.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Next, we headed down to Brooklyn, New York to check out a Dollar General.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Dollar General is renovating 1,000 existing stores and we happened to stop by one that had just been redone.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The difference between our first impression here and at Dollar Tree was stark. At first glance, Dollar General seemed absolutely spotless.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Whereas Dollar Tree went for a mostly green colour scheme, Dollar General was decorated in yellow accents. Surprisingly, this looked really nice in the store.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There was a neat selection of snacks and candy at the front of the store.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Here, we saw our first hint of a mess. However, it was cordoned off to the side and it paled in comparison to the clutter we saw at Dollar Tree.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Though items at Dollar General are heavily discounted, the store doesn’t sell everything for $US1. This feature was definitely a disadvantage.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

When it came to food, there were a lot of options. Plus, everything was cheaper than a regular supermarket.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There were a lot of name-brand items here as well. We picked up some Special K cereal for about $US3.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Throughout the store, there were some items marked with green tags that let us know they cost $US1.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We found a lot of those deals in the candy section.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We also found the same red cups we had seen at Dollar Tree going for the same low price of $US1.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The frozen section was a pleasure to behold. The freezers looked brand new and the corresponding aisles were similarly spotless.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The was even a whole aisle devoted to the items that were going for $US1. Even though we wished everything could have been that cheap in the store, we liked that there was a section devoted to this.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

The Halloween section at Dollar General was spooky, but for all the right reasons. Everything was neatly organised and in its correct place.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We also found a nicely stocked aisle of school supplies.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There were some areas of the store that weren’t in the best shape. We found some empty shelves …

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… as well as some boxes near the back of the store. However, the employee who was unloading them was careful not to block the aisles.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

We were surprised at how many different kinds of items were on sale in the store. We found everything from clothing …

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… to home goods …

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

… to scented candles.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

There was even a whole clearance section filled with different goodies.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Plus there was a handy scanner to help people check prices on different goods. Granted, this tool would not have been too useful in Dollar Tree, where almost everything is $US1.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

At checkout, we found a donation box for the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, which awards millions of dollars in grants to literacy organisations.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider


Source:
Dollar General Literacy Program


In contrast to the paper bag we received at Dollar Tree, we got a yellow plastic bag for our purchases at Dollar General.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Overall, Dollar General was a pleasure to shop in. Though the store was more expensive than Dollar Tree on average, the store was easier to navigate and featured a nice mix of items, which were still cheaper than a general supermarket.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Dollar General was the better store by a long shot. As Dollar Tree makes the move to add higher-priced items in its stores, it might lose its sole advantage over Dollar General.

Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.