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).

Walmart same store sales are down…

for the seventh straight quarter (because of cost cutting measures by the company and international expansion, though, their net profit is up).  I think that’s interesting because it could mean that even bargain shoppers or cutting back, or it could mean that those who have survived this recession with their income in tact could be slowly moving back to their old shopping hangouts. Sam’s club, the warehouse arm of Walmart, is reporting a boost in their same store sales, particularly in fresh food and apparel, which sounds a bit like preparation for the oncoming season, at least to me..


Money Lessons for Teens.

I know now that Al is a teen (sigh) I try to find ways to talk to him more often about relationships, nutrition, finances and stuff he needs to know so that he can be a healthy, contributing member of society and not live in my house.  These are some of the things personal finance expert Susan Hirshman suggests making sure that kids know (I think that a lot of these lessons could benefit grownups too).

1. Know where the money goes.

2. Save/invest early and often.

3. Make a conscious effort to spend less than you make.

4. Deeply dislike debt.

5. Shop around.

6. Live like a student.

7. You’re not alone.

8. Dream big and small.

Guess who is trying to get out of their gender discrimination lawsuit?

That’s right. It’s the same people who brought you the meat recall earlier this week. The battle has been going on for ten years (despite the best attempts by the Bush Administration to make the whole thing disappear – after all, Walmart WAS a huge campaign contributor). The discount retailer  contends that “the class is larger than the active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard combined—making it the largest employment class action in history by several orders of magnitude.”

I think that if a corporation faces a gender discrimination class action of that size, then maybe it needs to be heard by the most powerful court in the nation. After all, the misconduct couldn’t be just a figment of all of the class’s imagination.