By editorial board • 

Patronizing local vendors only way to deter chains

No one seems to want a Dollar General next door, down the street or on the main drag. Everyone, or almost everyone, seems to want one within easy driving distance, though.

The chain’s no-frills, cookie-cutter buildings have all the charm of a Circle K, which is to say, none whatsoever. Dollar General is a small-box version of big-box brick-and-mortar retailers (think Walmart) and no-box online retailers (think Amazon).

Like Walmart and Amazon, Dollar General is all about price, selection and convenience. It packs its 7,500-square-foot stores with mostly off-brand and house-brand merchandise it can peddle at rock-bottom prices — and from a location very near you, provided you make your home in rural environs.

The fast-growing chain boasted 14,761 stores at year’s end, but plans to swell that to 15,736 during the coming 12 months. That’s relevant in Yamhill County because last year’s quota included outlets in Dayton and Willamina, and next year’s figures to include one in Amity.

This is the company’s second try in Amity.

The first ran aground because it required a discretionary zone change. The second try features a site already carrying the requisite commercial zoning, so will be hard to head off.

The opposition accuses national chain discounters of cutting corners on quality, service and aesthetics, not to mention pay and benefits for workers.

They also accuse the discounters of undercutting local mom-and-pop retailers, whose stores are steeped in history and character. Think Yamhill’s venerable T&E General Store, which exudes the kind of charm the chain operations so sorely lack.

But we have no one to blame but ourselves for their ascendancy.

Consumers vote with their pocketbooks, and they are voting for Walmart, Amazon and Dollar General. Retailers are adopting nationally scaled discounter strategies for the same reason Willie Sutton used to rob banks — because that’s where the money is.

It’s not in Sears or Montgomery Ward. It’s not in Woolworths or J.J. Newberry. And sad to say, it’s probably not in the little home-grown, family-owned, small-town markets most threatened by Dollar General.

Arising from humble southern roots like those of Walmart, Dollar General has experienced 29 consecutive years of growth. It’s reached the point where it is opening, on average, three new stores a day.

Along the way, it easily turned aside a competitive small-store threat from Walmart. The big-box chain eventually raised the white flag and sold its small-box units to its upstart competitor.

The company doesn’t own any of its sites or stores, so has virtually no money tied up in real estate and can readily abandon an underperforming outlet. It keeps costs down by using its volume to squeeze brand-name vendors and justify house-brand alternatives.

Like Walmart, it displays relentless discipline when it comes to keeping labor costs low. And it counts virtually no perishables among its inventory of 10,000 to 12,000 items.

You won’t find much staff and you won’t get much help. The draw is the prospect of getting a deal.

The bottom line is, we get the kind of retailing environment we support with our purchases.


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