We visited Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Family Dollar to compare and only one wasn’t a messy disaster inside

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The Dollar Tree in Jersey City, new Jersey was a total mess. Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider

More than 9,300 store closures were announced this year. But as the retail apocalypse rips through the US, dollar stores seem to be weathering the storm.

Dollar General announced in its recent third quarter earnings call that it plans to open 1,000 new stores and remodel 1,500 existing stores.

Dollar Tree, which acquired Family Dollar in 2015 after a bidding war with Dollar General, has also been doing well. The company reported favourable earnings for Q3, which included increases in same-store sales for both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores.

Though all stores sell some items for $US1, each also has pricier items as well. This year, Dollar Tree tested adding more expensive merchandise to some stores to boost sales with its Dollar Tree Plus! initiative.

We visited all three to stores to see how they compare and why they are doing so well in an otherwise grim environment for retailers. Both Dollar Tree and Family Dollar were messy and disorganized. Only Dollar General proved why dollar stores seem to be winning shoppers over.

Here’s what we saw:


We visited a Dollar Tree in Jersey City, New Jersey.

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The interior was pretty drab upon entry, but we stayed positive.

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But if the disorganized display table at the front of the store was any indication, we were in for some mess.

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We visited the store around Halloween, so there were some boxes of seasonal decorations at the front of the store.

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The mess here was pretty distracting. We even found an open can of Pepsi lying around.

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When it came to the mess, the story was the same as we continued walking through the aisles.

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There were boxes crowding the walking space everywhere we turned.

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In some cases, the boxes looked about ready to topple over.

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To be sure, some areas of the store were cleaner than others.

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But for the most part, the amount of boxes and clutter was debilitating.

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In some places, it was practically impossible to manoeuvre past the wall of boxes.

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And where some spaces weren’t overflowing with extra product, the shelves were nearly empty.

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Mess aside, almost everything in the Dollar Tree — like this little pack of miniature Reese’s Cups — was actually going for $US1, which was nice.

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And though this candy display was slightly disorganized, for $US1 a pack with all the name-brands, it would be hard to find a better value elsewhere.

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The food section had some inexpensive name-brand items as well, but the mess here was astounding.

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We made our way to the front of the store, where the mess and clutter continued.

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We left Dollar Tree with some solid, cheap items in hand. But the mess and massive amounts of boxes we saw suggested a deeper issue with the store.

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Next, he headed to a recently renovated Dollar General down in Brooklyn, New York. The chain is renovating 1,500 existing stores.

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Once inside, the difference between this store and Dollar Tree was stark.

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From the moment we walked in, we could sense an atmosphere of organisation and cleanliness.

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At the front of the store, we found a neat little display of snacks.

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Nearby, we saw what looked like a mess that was being cordoned off from view. While it was slightly distracting, it was nothing compared to what we saw at Dollar Tree.

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We made our way into the aisles and noticed that a lot of the products were going for more than $US1.

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Deals that were $US1 were marked as such with special deal signs.

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The food section was fully stocked with different name-brand products and had a spotless freezer section.

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We picked up some Special K cereal for about $US3.

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We also found a monitor to check prices on different items, a feature which probably would not have been too useful in Dollar Tree, where almost everything is $US1.

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As we walked through the store, any mess or clutter we found was minimal.

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Cleanliness aside, this store also boasted a lot of different categories of merchandise, from toys …

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… to some savvy home goods.

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

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Source:
Dollar General Literacy Program


Though the items were more expensive than Dollar Tree on average, Dollar General still had a variety of great products that were cheaper than a regular store. Plus it was organised and clean, which made the experience enjoyable.

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Lastly, we visited a Family Dollar in Brooklyn, New York.

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Family Dollar was acquired Dollar Tree in 2015, so it was no surprise when the interior of the store resembled the store from its parent company.

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A messy toy display at the front of the store did not do well for first impressions.

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Luckily, a good portion of the store lacked the intense clutter that characterised Dollar Tree.

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We quickly realised that a lot of the items cost more than $US1.

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However, there were a lot of paper signs that let us know about other deals on select items.

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The food section had some off-brand versions of more popular snacks.

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But there were also some name-brand options as well. We picked up another bag of miniature Reese’s Cups for $US1.

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Pretty soon, we discovered there was more mess to this store than initially met the eye.

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Though not as bad as the mess in Dollar Tree, the store had a lot of distracting clutter in the aisles.

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It seemed like a lot of items were waiting to be unloaded onto the shelves, which made the appearance of the store rather unsettling.

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The checkout line was growing when we first arrived, but by the time we went to pay, it was empty.

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The mess behind the counter was probably the most disturbing mess we had seen in the store.

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Though we got some good and cheap items at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, both of these stores clearly had an organizational problem. Dollar General, though slightly more expensive, was the better bet overall.

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