Remember my Dollar Store field trip in January?

Of course you do. I told you that Walmart was looking REALLY CLOSELY at the way that Dollar Tree and similar stores had revamped their image and was working on a similar concept, in light of the fact that Dollar store sales were exploding and Walmart sales, well, notsomuch. Well, today the first Walmart Express opened and Target will be opening four CityTarget stores in the next two years. Some analysts believe that Walmart and Target are too slow in their response to the shift, but it will be an interesting indicator of how the American shopper sees things.

Dollar Tree has Walmart shook?

When my siblings and I were kids, we got an allowance. My brother would use his to go get stuff from the dollar store. Sometimes he got some nice stuff, but most of the time, notsomuch. Back then, one had to sift through a lot of junk to get to the rare treasures that would justify the trip.  My friend Diva in Demand  recently told me that there was nice stuff to be found, but when I read that Dollar Tree was striking fear in the heart of Bentonville, Arkansas, I knew it was time for a field trip. It was cold, but I still went.

The recession has changed the patrons of the discounter (one of their most quickly rising demographics is households with income over 70,000) and partly as a result of this, the stores are having record profits (meanwhile, Walmart has seen six consecutive quarters of declining same-store sales). It’s come to the point that the mart is trying out a new concept with smaller stores and cheaper merchandise in the neighborhoods where dollar stores usually thrive.

I was really surprised to find that the store is not nearly as cluttered as my last visit with my mother in law a few years ago. Everything is well lit and neatly displayed. I saw a lot of product names I recognize from my usual haunts (hefty, c&s sugar, hershey, m&m, del monte, rubbermaid, etc.) – one thing to note, though, was that a number of the pantry items were packaged in lower quantities than most people purchase at the grocery store. It can be a bargain for those shopping for smaller households, but some of the things that I found were more costly once the price had been recalculated to compare with the sizes I purchase for my family.

The hair care section mostly featured suave, white rain (they still make that?) and breck (again – they still make that?) but I’ve often found suave shampoo and styling products to be just as good as the brands that people pay too much money for.

I got a few pairs of socks for my sons. They kill socks. The store had some really nice earthenware dishes, glasses and anything one would need to set up or restock a kitchen. I also saw several name brands in the freezer and while I was not thrilled with all of the imported produce, there was a good variety for a family on a budget to eat healthy meals for a great price. The cashiers had a really sunny disposition (I hope they are enrolled in profit sharing).