Saturday, June 16, 2018
News Roundup

Dollar stores here, there, soon all over Hernando

Seeing as there seems to be a dollar store tucked in every other strip mall in Hernando County, you might think we have enough of them.

Doesn't matter. We're getting more.

Dollar General, which has about 10,000 stores across the country, is planning to open new outlets in Brooksville, Spring Hill and Masaryktown.

Family Dollar, meanwhile, has definite plans to open two Hernando stores next year — on Spring Hill Drive near Marble Avenue and on State Road 50, east of Brooksville — and company representatives have inquired about two other possible locations, said county planner Paul Wieczorek.

Any new stores would be added to the total of 13 Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores already doing business here.

Does that make us a dollar store type of place? And is that what we want to be?

Similar questions came up a few years ago, after the construction of the county's third Walmart Supercenter and a Walmart-owned Sam's Club.

A lot of people in Hernando decided we didn't want to be known for having one of the highest per-capita concentrations of Walmart outlets in Florida, which is one reason for the near revolt that blocked the construction of a fourth supercenter in 2007.

At least we're not close to being the dollar store capital of the state — yet.

Citrus County, for example, has about 30,000 fewer people than Hernando but four more outlets of the three largest dollar store chains.

And the expansion of these chains is a national rather than a regional phenomenon — one that's based on the stores' evolving niche.

They now sell fewer plastic trinkets and more items people actually need, which I discovered when I stopped in at the Dollar General near the Times office on SR 50 recently and saw about half the floor space devoted to food.

If you, too, want to check out a dollar store, I bet you can find one in your neighborhood. And if you can't, just wait. There probably will be one soon, because that's the company's strategy — build them so there's one in just about everyone's neighborhood.

Family Dollar, for example, is adding stores at the rate of about 500 per year, and in surprising locations, including every borough of New York City and downtown Atlanta.

Which means either Hernando is in decent company or that this blight is spreading everywhere, which is kind of the way I see it.

Is this snobbery? Maybe a little. One Family Dollar store in Manhattan won't brand the place as the home of cheapskates. Five of them — the minimum we can expect here in the near future — can go a ways toward putting that label on Hernando.

And as much as shoppers might benefit from being able to buy the silo-sized (actually 25-ounce) can of Comet for $1 that I saw at Dollar General, I'm not sure the flimsy-looking $10 tool set was any bargain. If the tools break the first time you use them, it's just money down the drain.

But it isn't all snobbery. Retail doesn't generate as much value as, say, manufacturing. And when the retail operations are chains — no matter how upscale — a lot of this value is sucked out to corporate headquarters.

And having too many of one type of store — the drugstores at so many of our most visible corners, even our eight Publix supermarkets — takes variety from our consumer choices and our landscape.

I understand that people who are short of cash and reliable transportation might not have much choice but to shop at dollar stores.

The rest of us should keep in mind that every purchase encourages or discourages a way of doing business.

And if you think we already have enough dollar stores, you can always shop somewhere else.

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