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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Should Dollar Stores Be Illegal?

Posted by on Tue, May 15, 2012 at 7:43 AM

First, Vermont came for the Walmarts. I said nothing, because I hate Walmarts. Now, Vermont is coming for the dollar stores?

Shawn Cunningham, a resident here in Chester who is fighting Dollar General’s plan to open down the street from the town common, said that since dollar stores tend to be much smaller than big-box stores, they are often not barred by local zoning rules meant to keep sprawl in check.

“It’s not like you’re bringing in a 100,000-square-foot supercenter,” said Mr. Cunningham, who started a group, Smart Growth Chester, to fight the Dollar General proposal

This is a good argument to be having. So let's talk about it, Slog:


Comments (26) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I'm not sure how you legislate for or against this type of retail. I see regulation on some businesses, such as liquor stores, bars, strip clubs, and such near schools or parks. I see regulation based on size (certainly height, but total square footage as well). But how do you say "We will allow stores with this pricing strategy but not that pricing strategy"? That crosses a line.
Posted by Charlie Mas on May 15, 2012 at 7:48 AM · Report this
This is not a battle you can fight locally. Sure you might stop a store, but that won't change the fact that for a lot of people those stores are the only place they can really afford the things they need.

Of course these kind of stores are often indirectly the reason people don't have enough money, but stopping one of them won't change that.
Posted by giffy on May 15, 2012 at 7:48 AM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 3
This is stupid. If you don't like Dollar Stores, don't shop there. Problem solved.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on May 15, 2012 at 7:54 AM · Report this
Kinison 4
Ban the sign, not the store. Dont like it? Dont shop there. Amazed how were even having this conversation.
Posted by Kinison on May 15, 2012 at 7:58 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 5
People tend to overlook the fact that for many poor families, stores like Wal-Mart offer them a chance to live better lives through saving money on basic staples.

I am not attempting to justify all of Wal-Mart's business practices, but the bottom line is that Wal-Mart is a boon to poor families. I read a report a few years ago saying that a poor family may save up to $8,000 a year by shopping at Wal-Mart for groceries and other household needs. Wish I could find a link, but I recall it being a reasonably unbiased source.

I think this should outweigh elitist and aesthetic arguements about vague feelings regarding what a community/main street should look like.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on May 15, 2012 at 8:02 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 6
There were good political reasons for keeping out Walmart, but keeping out dollar stores sounds like the kind of thing driven purely by aesthetic considerations, like Bainbridge Island banning all chain stores and restaurants. Still, if that's what they want to do, that's their right.

Businesses have no explicit right to conduct business, no matter what the free market monkeys say.
Posted by Matt from Denver on May 15, 2012 at 8:05 AM · Report this
I have a feeling it's not the store that is the issue, it's the clientele the store brings to the town that's the issue.
Posted by rostin79 on May 15, 2012 at 8:09 AM · Report this
i'm not opposed to the price structure, i'm not opposed to the clientele, i'm opposed to the miles of useless plastic crap that imported from from overseas at great human, economic and environmental cost that serves no need and will end up in towers of garbage in a mere couple of years.
Posted by deepconcentration on May 15, 2012 at 8:24 AM · Report this
Just because snobs hate dollar stores on aesthetic grounds doesn't mean I have to love what they do to local retail. Dollar stores are mostly a symptom of poverty, but with their low wages and the cheap Chinese crap they sell they're not helping on the causal side either. No, poor folks can't fix the trade imbalance singlehandedly, but it's got to start somewhere.

Here's the thing: Vermont's best asset when it comes to getting money from the rest of the world is its lack of billboards and shitty retail strips. Plenty of other states have mountains, but Vermont is a place people like to go when they want a break from chain stores and restaurants and rampant consumer culture. Without that it's just another out-of-the-way place, another West Virginia or Idaho competing in a race to the bottom. Good luck with that!
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 15, 2012 at 8:27 AM · Report this
npage148 10
@9 What VT has going for it hat WV or Idaho doesn't is that you won't get a beat down for being gay or a minority.
Posted by npage148 on May 15, 2012 at 8:47 AM · Report this
Per the article, it's not a state question, it's a local one for small towns trying to use zoning and development regulations to defend their small local retailers.

Does this differ in principle from our own hopes of reform for our land use and design review codes in order to protect future small scale local retail like our darling Bauhaus block? Localities have not just a right but an obligation to recognize, protect and promote what makes them vibrant and livable - they may get it wrong sometimes but it would be stupid to abandon the effort because it might not fit into a headline.
Posted by gloomy gus on May 15, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
@10 That's nice too, but I don't see gays or other minorities flocking to VT.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 15, 2012 at 9:02 AM · Report this
It is nonsensical to outlaw this business model. It would, on the other hand, be completely sensible to price in the negative externalities of production such as environmental impact and the under-compensation of labor.
Posted by Valpey on May 15, 2012 at 9:38 AM · Report this
rob! 14
I'm old enough to remember "dime stores" (Sprouse-Reitz, Ben Franklin, Woolworth), though by that time few things except the bubblegum by the cash register cost ten cents. In thirty years or less, inflation will have eliminated the problem.
Posted by rob! on May 15, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
npage148 15
@ 12
Top States Ranked by Percentage:
Rank State GLB Population: Percentage of State Population
1 District of Columbia 8.1%
2 New Hampshire 6.6%
3 Washington 5.7%
4 Massachusetts 5.7%
5 Maine 5.2%
6 California 5.2%
7 Colorado 5.1%
8 Vermont 5.1%
9 New Mexico 4.9%
10 Minnesota 4.7%
Posted by npage148 on May 15, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
I love Daiso stores.
Posted by MLM on May 15, 2012 at 10:10 AM · Report this
I sense that this is just an attempt to make sure every new business fits in with their upscale, gentrified neighborhood aesthetic. But here's the thing: Dollar General doesn't open a new store randomly - they do their market research and if they want to open a store there, there is a market for their store. Meaning, low-income shoppers. So, I think it's what @7 said: these neighborhood planners just want to pretend that the non-elite, non-yuppy parts of their neighborhood don't exist. Ugh.
Posted by Christy O on May 15, 2012 at 11:11 AM · Report this
michael strangeways 18
Dollar Stores are evil because they sell crap to the poor. Shitty food products (in tiny quantities that aren't economical) and poorly made goods that last about a week.

"Oooh! I paid a $1 for a broom that'll break after a couple uses so I'll have to buy another $1 broom! Score!!"
Posted by michael strangeways on May 15, 2012 at 11:30 AM · Report this
Just an FYI...Dollar General stores are not dollar stores, where everything is a dollar. They are more like a mini-Walmart, with low prices on somtimes off-brand things and slightly irregulars. Big Lots might be the best comparison, except, again, Dollar General is smaller.

There are ton of them in the south, in big cities and small towns. In a lot of poor, urban neighborhoods, they or Family Dollar (very similar store) are the only stores for miles.
Posted by Sheryl on May 15, 2012 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Dougsf 20
@18 - As someone that lives in a neighborhood replete with these stores, I totally agree—they're evil. There's room in the world for cheap goods, not every purpose demands the highest quality, but these places are basically importing goods from overseas to dump straight into our landfills.

Not to mention all the sketchy grey market shit you can find in those things here.
Posted by Dougsf on May 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 21

You really can't blame the store for stocking things that Americans love to buy. It is not like the dollar stores have a monopoly on cheap plastic crap...go to any grocery store, department store, gas station, online retailer, or even a pharmacy.

It is a problem for us as consumers that we care solely about cost and not quality or how our buying habits affect others. The store is responding to our demand, not creating our demand.

You may as well blame Colombia because Americans keep buying their cocaine.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on May 15, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
@15 If VT's getting paid for not hating the gays too, that's even better. I still think non-shitty landscape is the biggest draw.

New Hampshire is second, of all the states? How'd that happen? Also, I wonder if there's not some reporting bias. Like, there might be a lot of gays in Tennessee who aren't putting that fact on questionnaires or surveys. But for a state to be a safe place to be out is a distinction in itself.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM · Report this
Dougsf 23
@21 - I think you're partially right, and I don't agree they should be banned, I stand by my stance that they're evil.

And really, I can blame them. Visit one of the half-dozen 99 cent stores you'll find on Mission between 24th and 16th streets, and you'll find shit that is so cheap or purporting to be something it isn't, it's not only questionably legal to sell, it's outright dangerous.

Big Lots up the road can sell a cheap hammer for $5, and any hardware store will sell you a low-end one for $10. Maybe there's still a niche for a $2 hammer with a head that's going to come flying off (which happened to me, so I may be proving both of our points) that needs filling, but I'd rather the free market didn't work it's way all the way down into that crevasse.
Posted by Dougsf on May 15, 2012 at 12:55 PM · Report this
And Chester should ban cars from driving through the town as well. They should have Central Vermont Public Service dig up all those nasty utility poles which uglify Vermont's earthy backwardness.
Posted by Weekilter on May 15, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
I'd rather the free market didn't work it's way all the way down into that crevasse.
That's true for so many situations. Think I'll make that my new motto if you don't mind.
Posted by Prettybetsy on May 16, 2012 at 5:41 AM · Report this
Ok, so I'm one of those leading the opposition to this in Chester, VT. Having read many of the comments about what's going on here, I can see that you don't have a clue about the situation. But if it makes you feel cool and smug to trash a community's desire to preserve what's valuable and reject what will harm its economy and its residents that says more about you than us.

The Dollar General Store will compete (national/corporate/KKR[look that up] vs local) against a store that's been around since the 1850s and owned by the same family for 20 years. They employ 9 full time and 20 part time and operate on low margins. And they get involved and give a lot to the community. A lot of kids get their first experience in the world of work at the store.

DG will employ 2 ft and 4 pt and when they cut into the local grocery's margins people who get a living wage will lose jobs. (DG is minimum wage.) If the grocery goes out of business, all 3000 of us will have to drive to the next town over to shop a corporate supermarket. Gee, that's a carbon neutral, green choice.

We have a beautiful town that has industry, trades, retail and services and a dollar spent in Chester tends to stay here and have a multipli er effect. A portion of our town's income comes from this beauty and a barn like structure that's twice the size of any retailer in town at the gateway to downtown isn't going to help anybody who has a real stake in this town.

Trash what we want or think, but we know and value this place and all you do is "comment."
Posted by Shawn Cunningham on May 16, 2012 at 9:08 PM · Report this

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