The new Family Dollar Tree store in Bishop held its Official Grand Opening on Saturday, May 11. Local business and community leaders are optimistic about the store. It replaced the former JC Penney Store on Main Street, which was closed in June 2017 last year despite appeals by the community to the corporation to keep it open. Comments from shoppers on the new store were positive as a line formed at the check-out counters.
The new store carries a variety of sundry items, including discounted groceries.
“There are dairy, grocery and frozen food sections,” says District Training Manager Cayetano Legaspi, who oversees 10 other Family Dollar stores, with an eleventh on the horizon. There are five Family Dollar stores in Bakersfield alone.
On a tour of the Bishop store, Legaspi said, “We sell cooking, grilling and baking supplies, as well as staples such as milk, eggs, and bread, at discounted, competitive prices.”
There is one thing that you will not find in the store: fresh produce. For many grocery shoppers that might prove a deal breaker, especially with existing discount grocery stores such as Grocery Outlet and Smart & Final already in town, both of which carry fresh produce, as do both Vons and Manor Market.
On the other hand, if the mood strikes, there are plenty of snacks and candy, whether for a party or just a personal junk-food fix. There are plenty of name-brand chips and beverages on the shelves that you would find at any other grocery store.
There are household supplies, pet food and supplies, apparel, and seasonal items at discounted prices as well. There’s a wide variety of merchandise to meet most shoppers’ needs.
Betty-Jo Whitman of Bishop was shopping with her one-year-old daughter, Koraline. When asked what she thought of the new store, she replied, ‘They have a good selection and great prices on baby clothes and diapers.’
Not everyone was “buying.” Several shoppers told The Sheet that they were there out of curiosity. One such shopper was Bishop resident Cara Borin, who, along with her daughters Angela Kneip (and baby, Kayden), Jessica and Rebecca Borin, was ready to work her way through the aisles to see what was offered in the new store. She was not alone. There were also several shoppers from Mammoth Lakes doing the same thing.
One shopper asked, “If this is a dollar store, why are many of the prices over a dollar?” It is a good question. The answer is that Retail is struggling with the paradigm shift created by e-commerce.
According to a recent article in USA Today, the Chesapeake, Virginia-based discount retailer Dollar Tree Inc., bought its rival Family Dollar Tree in 2015 for $9.2 billion, but the brand has been ailing. As part of an aggressive restructuring, it has closed as many as 390 Family Dollar Stores, changing the name of roughly 200 more, and planning to renovate 1,000 stores in 2019. The renovated stores will include $1 Dollar Tree merchandise sections, and testing charging more than a dollar in some of its namesake stores.
All the discount retailers, including Dollar Tree competitor Dollar General, have been aggressively restructuring, closing some stores, remodeling others, and expanding their merchandise offerings to find ways to re-invent themselves to stay competitive with the internet. Part of that strategy is opening new stores in new markets, such as the one in Bishop.
An additional challenge is that tariffs resulting from President Trumps trade dispute with China, has a strong effect on dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar that can’t raise the price of products. The company admits that there are dangers to moving away from the $1-only proposition long-term because, otherwise, it loses its unique identity and possibly becomes ‘just another store.’
Despite problems facing the industry, the new Family Dollar Store in Bishop represents a step up from the economic stagnation that has plagued the local economy resulting in many empty store fronts. Again, there is optimism…and the fact is, there are many shoppers who love shopping at dollar stores and finding good deals.