2021 Retailer of the Year: Dollar General
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Food and consumables accounted for 77% of Dollar General’s annual sales last year of $33.7 billion. The expansion of cooler and freezer capacity at new and remodeled stores has for several years been described as the Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based company’s most impactful merchandising initiative. Dollar General began selling fresh produce at select stores last year, expanded the program to 2,000 locations this year, and its current plan is to add produce in up to 10,000 stores. Dollar General now self-distributes frozen and refrigerated products from a network of 12 facilities after completing a multiyear rollout of its DG Fresh supply chain initiative ahead of schedule during a pandemic.
Dollar General now sells more food in more places than ever before, thanks to its massive base of 18,000 stores, and will increasingly do so in the future as the company projects that opportunities exist for thousands of more stores. Dollar General’s sales mix and strategic actions are the hallmarks of a grocer, and a successful one at that, but “grocer” isn’t a term that CEO Todd Vasos uses to describe the business.
“We don’t consider ourselves a grocer. We have for many years considered ourselves to be more of a general store,” Vasos tells Progressive Grocer in an exclusive interview. “If you think about our stores and where they’re located, about 75% are in rural or small-town America. From that standpoint, we’re much more than just a grocer by a long shot, because we carry a full array of consumables and nonconsumable-type items.”
The distinction between a grocer and a general store can be subtle, but it’s a view also held by Emily Taylor, Dollar General’s EVP and chief merchandising officer. She views the general store moniker as a way to describe “the magic of the box,” where customers are able to meet a broad range of needs: “Everything from everyday basics, whether it be in household, family needs, all the way over to more discretionary-type purchases, including all health and beauty care.
“But at the same time, we also meet [the shopper’s] needs when it comes to food and feeding her family,” Taylor continues. “That really is the magic of the box, and to do that in such a small footprint, so that it’s convenient for the customer, is really what we work to be.”