The NY Times up a really long, and very interesting article about dollar stores. The long quote below deals with operations, but the article touches on numerous aspects of the biz:
In Hamilton’s view, the secret of a good dollar store is an obsessive manager who can monitor 8,000 to 10,000 items, constantly varying product display tactics, and sense the changing interests of a local customer base. This frenzied drama requires a sharp eye for tiny details. “The market is moving all the time,” Hamilton said as we entered the store. Right away, he threw up his arms, thrilled. This was just before Easter, and he pointed out the big holiday display practically in the doorway, an in-our-face explosion of color and delight that herded us away from the exit. “The natural inclination is to move to the right,” Hamilton said, nodding at the cash registers on the left. The hunt was on.
Hamilton pointed out that the aisles are about two inches wider than two shopping carts, which themselves are comically tiny, giving the buyer a sense that even a small pile of goods is lavish. Despite the dollar store’s reputation for shoddy products, the mise-en-scène nevertheless suggests a kind of luxury, if only of quantity. “The first thing you feel is this thing is packed with merchandise,” Hamilton said, pointing out the high shelves along the walls. Helium balloons strained upward, everywhere. Any empty wall space was filled with paper signage proclaiming savings or “$1” and framing the store’s goods.
The idea, Hamilton explained, is to create a kind of primal experience and a certain meditative flow. “My theory was to get them in a pattern, and they will just go up and down and go, ‘Oh, I forgot I need that,’ and pick it up.”
“You always keep things full,” he said. And always keep the higher part of the shelves engorged with product. “People buy at eye level,” he added. Hamilton advised that products should be hung in vertical strips so that in a walk up the aisle, the eye can distinguish one item from the next. We arrived to a back wall covered entirely in plastic, pillar after pillar of household cleaning supplies, a kaleidoscopic blaze of primary colors. Bob Hamilton was one happy man.
Photo by NNECAPA.