DeKalb County imposes moratorium on dollar stores

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) — The word on the street is that people on Wesley Chapel Road in DeKalb love their dollar stores.

“I teach so it’s really easy for me to come here and get supplies and things like that,” Dollar store customer Malki Thomas said.

“I go to the Dollar Tree on a budget, just to be on a budget,” Dollar store customer Maelazsha O’Neal said.

“The prices are very economical,” Dollar store customer Lucrecia Cornwell said.

Just about everywhere you turn in DeKalb County, you’ll find a dollar store. And whether you prefer to shop at Family Dollar, Dollar General or Dollar Tree there’s no shortage of options.

In fact, there are some 68-dollar stores in the county. One of the most concentrated areas in metro Atlanta.

And some local officials believe these stores are now attracting crime and have caused a food desert in 20-percent of the county where there are few grocery stores serving fresh fruits and vegetables.

“I’m like wow! I never thought about it,” Thomas said.

“I don’t think that makes any sense. People know where to go to get fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t know why they would go there instead of going to the grocery store,” Cornwall said 

County commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson proposed a moratorium on dollar stores until they can determine how to handle the influx. The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted on the measure and approved a 45-day moratorium.

“If it is generating crime, that is a problem,” A dollar store customer said.

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar issued this statement to CBS46: 

“Dollar Tree and Family Dollar complement and operate side by side with grocery stores and bring economic development to every community we enter. Dollar stores help alleviate the effects of “food deserts” in urban communities by helping serve the underserved.

Dollar Tree provides a broad range of basic essentials to families at low prices they can afford, which is a key reason we have consistently been one of America’s most loved brands for more than 32 years.

Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are not grocery stores; they are neighborhood discount stores that provide our customers with value products every day in convenient, local, small store locations. Full-service grocery stores can be found within a few miles of the overwhelming majority of our stores across highly diverse urban, suburban and rural markets. Our stores are on average 9,000sqft, a small fraction of the size of an average grocery store, and we account for less than 2.5% of total food sales in our trade areas.

We understand deeply the concerns of many local officials regarding the changing nature of our shared communities across the country, and – as part of those communities — we are always looking for new ways to help our neighborhoods be healthier, stronger and safer.

Our stores strive to be good community partners in every neighborhood we serve. For example, we are a longtime sponsor of Operation Homefront, which provides emergency, financial and other assistance to families of United States service members and wounded warriors in our communities across the country. We have a great partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America, raising more than $1.5 million in 2018 through a variety of efforts driven by our associates, customers and vendor partners. We also sponsor ACCESS College Foundation, American Diabetes Association, the American Red Cross, scholarship programs, local food banks and other non-profit organizations.

In 2018, we employed 182,000 people in more than 15,000 communities across North America. In many of these communities, our stores represent much needed full and part time employment opportunities. Within the past year, more than 35,000 of our valued associates were promoted into new positions within the organization. We reinvested $100 million of the benefit from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 into increased average hourly rates, additional benefits, and more store hours, including associate training.

We have paid billions of dollars in state and local taxes and we continue to invest in all of the communities we serve.”

Dollar General issued the following statement:

“For 80 years, Dollar General has remained focused on providing our customers with everyday low prices, value and convenience through our small-box neighborhood stores and our mission of Serving Others.

Re: Store Selection

Our customers are at the center of all that we do, and we are proud to provide a convenient, affordable retail option in communities that traditional grocers and other retailers choose not to serve. Each potential Dollar General site is carefully evaluated to ensure that we will be able to meet our customers’ expectations regarding price, assortment and convenience.

Re: Grocery Store Closures and Healthy Food Options

We believe our small-box footprint and carefully-curated product assortment help our customers stretch their budgets on items they use and replenish most often, many of which are offered at much higher prices at grocery stores, whether large or small.

Although we are not a grocery store, each of Dollar General’s 16,000+ locations provide customers with components of a healthy diet such as milk, eggs, bread, cheese, frozen and canned vegetables, grains, lean proteins and more. Similarly to grocers, convenience stores and drug stores across America, our stores also carry a variety of snacks and prepared foods, products which are available based on customer demand. We typically are a fill-in shop, as evidenced by our average basket of approximately $12.

Further, we have a number of healthier initiatives in select stores including a “Better For You” assortment that provides healthier food options in approximately 5,400 stores. We currently carry an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables in more than 600 stores, with plans to increase that number to 650 by fiscal year end. We also plan to expand our produce offering to an additional 250 stores in FY 2020.

Re: Bottom Line

We are disappointed that DeKalb County policymakers have chosen to limit Dollar General’s ability to serve their community. We understand and support the desire to improve the health of the communities we serve. However, we do not agree that the dollar store industry – or Dollar General in particular – is the problem, and we do not believe that moratoria and or restrictive zoning ordinances are the solutions. In fact, we believe those most adversely affected by these measures are customers who are forced to travel farther and/or spend more on everyday needs.

We believe the addition of each new Dollar General store presents positive economic growth for the communities we proudly serve. We demonstrate our commitment to being a positive business partner through the creation of local jobs and numerous opportunities for employee development and career advancement, as well as through grants provided through the Dollar General Literacy Foundation that positively impact literacy and education initiatives at schools, non-profits and libraries.”

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