Viewpoints

In Real Life, Celebrities Love the Dollar Store

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Every week, the celebrity– and scandal-obsessed US Weekly runs a photo feature called “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!” The candid images depict various Hollywood VIPs engaged in mundane tasks (They wait on line at Starbucks! They buy paper towels at Vons!). The message here is that the only difference between them and us is that they get photographed doing these things.

If Hollywood A-Listers really want to show just how regular they are, they should be excited to hear that 99 Cents Only may be coming to tony Beverly Hills. The chain made headlines recently when it announced it was looking to lease property for a flagship store smack on Rodeo Drive. In a press release, CEO Eric Schiffer said that the retailer’s highest-grossing store is located on nearby Wilshire Boulevard.

“We are confident a Rodeo Drive store will be successful because our stores do well in affluent areas,” he stated.

A number of industry observers scoffed at the news, calling it a publicity stunt. On the face of it, the announcement may seem like a play for a headline, but one soon realizes that — of all the formats selling consumables — the dollar store is probably the only format that could convince itself into opening on one of the nation’s most expensive streets. It presents just the right amount of juxtaposition to make it ironic. The visuals are appealing:  Imagine putting a 99 Cents Only unit next to a Fendi, or a Coach, or any other single-named super-premium retailer (Stars are just like us! They shop at dollar stores!).

Unlike supermarkets, club, drug or convenience stores, the dollar store has cultivated a “cheap chic” cadre of affluent customers that loves to toss aside any reservations about the dollar  store stigma and shop these venues for fun, searching the overloaded aisles for elusive bargains. The treasure hunt mentality transcends income demographics; it seems spotting a deal is universal, regardless of paycheck size or the number of handlers one has.

Dollar stores started out in B-lot strip malls and gained traction in the shadow of megaretailers like Wal-Mart. They still don’t present a precise threat to traditional supermarkets — their selection and SKU count remain fairly narrow. But they are carving out an identity that is unique in the retail food world. Only a handful of supermarket operators can make such a claim. When it comes to  character, dollar stores are poised to become stars.

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Julie Gallagher

Julie Gallagher’s delicious foray into coverage of the food industry was purely accidental. With a background in technology, she joined Supermarket News as associate editor of its Technology...

Mark Hamstra

Mark Hamstra is the editor of the Retail/Financial section of Supermarket News covering mergers and acquisitions, quarterly earnings reports, executive changes and other significant events and trends...
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