The Dollar Store Phenomenon: A Look into Foot Traffic and Consumer Behavior in 2023

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In the dynamic landscape of post-pandemic retail, understanding consumer behavior has never been more critical. With technology evolving and consumer preferences shifting, the importance of foot traffic insights for marketing, supply chain management, competitive intelligence, and more in retail is growing. So, we wanted to learn more about current consumer trends in retail, specifically in the dollar store category. Post-pandemic economic disruptions like soaring inflation have motivated consumers to tighten their budgets, increasing the appeal of dollar store shopping. In fact, more high-earners have been shopping at dollar stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree this year than just a year ago. So, why might this be, and how does foot traffic to top dollar store chains look this year?

To explore how current consumer trends are shaping the dollar store industry and what lies ahead, we examined foot traffic to dollar store brands from Q2 2022 to Q2 2023. Here’s what we found.

Analysis: Foot Traffic to Dollar Stores

We analyzed foot traffic to Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Big Lots, and Five Below. Overall, foot traffic to dollar stores across the nation is on the rise. Among the prominent players, Five Below emerged as a standout performer, experiencing a remarkable 63% year-over-year increase in foot traffic. The surge in foot traffic to Five Below stores suggests a strong resonance with its distinct target demographics of young adults and teenagers. This group is often drawn to the store’s diverse product offerings, which include trendy items often associated with discretionary spending.

Dollar Tree and Dollar General also made waves in foot traffic growth, seeing significant year-over-year increases of 33% and 27%, respectively. These stores, catering to a wide range of customers, offer various everyday items such as cleaning products, toiletries, and basic groceries. The substantial growth in foot traffic to Dollar Tree and Dollar General may indicate that many consumers are flocking to these stores for essential goods at competitive prices. This trend is not surprising, given factors like high inflation that have prompted consumers to be more budget-conscious.

Meanwhile, Big Lots and Family Dollar experienced year-over-year foot traffic growth of 18% and 16%, respectively, adding to the overall upward trend in the industry.

Dollar Store Foot Traffic Trends

Over the past year, a common pattern emerged among all the analyzed brands in terms of foot traffic trends. The brands experienced spikes in foot traffic during Q4 2022, followed by a decline in Q1 2023, and a subsequent modest rise in Q2 2023. This cyclic pattern reflects the influence of various factors, including the holiday shopping season and economic fluctuations.

Interestingly, Five Below showcased a unique trend in foot traffic compared to the other brands. While the company saw an increase in foot traffic during Q3 2022, there was a dip during Q4 2022. However, the first half of 2023 saw a resurgence in Five Below’s foot traffic growth, outpacing its competitors. This exceptional trend could be attributed to the store’s distinctive appeal to young adults and teenagers seeking affordable indulgences and trendy products. But, what else could be contributing to the high growth that Five Below and other dollar stores are seeing?

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Consumer Shopping Trends in 2023

The year 2023 has brought forth a fusion of shopping trends shaped by convenience and value; plus, consumers are seeking more personalized and meaningful shopping experiences. The dollar store industry, with its range of affordable products, has capitalized on this desire for value-driven shopping while adapting to modern consumer expectations. As inflation affects purchasing power, consumers are actively seeking budget-friendly options without compromising quality. So, dollar stores have positioned themselves as go-to destinations for savvy shoppers, fueling foot traffic to dollar store locations.

Moreover, the appeal of discovery and treasure-hunt shopping has redefined the dollar store experience. Consumers are drawn to the thrill of finding unique items at unbeatable prices, turning routine visits into exciting adventures. This shift in consumer mindset underscores the significance of understanding and catering to evolving preferences.

For example, similar to the appeal of Target stores, Five Below relies on trendy shoppers and impulse buying. Five Below offers a range of popular items, clothing, treats, and more at affordable prices, making it a prime location for consumers to treat themselves on a budget. Plus, Five Below emphasizes its in-store shopping experience by changing out its product line regularly to keep up with the trends, making for unique experiences that likely drive up foot traffic to Five Below stores. It seems that the current post-pandemic economic landscape and the overall trends seen in shopping today are favoring Five Below locations more than any other dollar store in 2023.

Dollar Stores: What’s Next?

Looking ahead, the in-store experience may play an increasingly important role in the success of dollar store chains. Especially as consumers place more value on the shopping experience as a memorable social opportunity, the in-store experience at many dollar stores may begin shifting to better cater to modern consumers. For example, Dollar General recently announced its $100 million investment in its stores to boost labor and improve customer and employee relationships. Decisions like these could encourage more growth in foot traffic to Dollar General as 2023 progresses, especially as the holiday season approaches.

Dollar stores that embrace innovation to cater to shifting consumer needs will likely flourish as 2023 comes to a close. Changes like in-store innovations, more product offerings, and enticing promotions or offers could keep consumers returning to dollar stores, ensuring the continued success of these companies in 2023. Today’s shopping landscape is marked by value-conscious consumers seeking personalized experiences, so by capitalizing on these trends, dollar stores can continue to thrive and shape the course of tomorrow’s retail journey.

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