Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In
Back to The Anchor

Dollar Tree: A Deeper Look into the Planned Family Dollar Store Closures

RJ Hottovy
Mar 15, 2024
Dollar Tree: A Deeper Look into the Planned Family Dollar Store Closures

The big news coming out of Dollar Tree’s Q4 2023 update was that the company plans to close 1,000 stores following a comprehensive portfolio review (which we first discussed in December). Management plans to close approximately 600 Family Dollar stores in the first half of fiscal 2024, with another 370 Family Dollar and 30 Dollar Tree stores expected to close over the next several years as store lease terms expire. The 970 anticipated Family Dollar store closures represent 11.6% of the banner’s 8,359 stores opened as of the end of February. Dollar stores were one of the strongest performing categories from a visitation (new stores and  perspective during 2023 (below), so it may seem surprising that Dollar Tree plans to close so many Family Dollar stores during 2024.

Dollar Tree’s decision to close Family Dollar stores echoes a lot of what we’ve heard from other retailers closing stores in recent years, including Macy’s, CVS/Walgreens, and others. For the most part, retailers’ decisions to close stores comes down to a combination of factors: (1) population migration has changed the supply/demand balance in a given market; (2) consumer behavior has changed post-COVID; (3) the retailer is facing new sources of competition and eroding consumer loyalty; and (4) retailers are replacing underperforming stores with a modernized store layout.

Management cited changing demographics and market saturation as key considerations driving its consolidation efforts for Family Dollar. While the company has not announced which locations it plans to close, we’ve plotted Family Dollar’s 1,000 lowest performing locations over the trailing twelve months on a visit per square foot basis below.

If we compare this to a map of changes in Origin/Destination Household Income Ratio over the past four years (using Placer’s Migration Trends report), the changing demographics that Dollar Tree cited becomes evident. Many underperforming Family Dollar locations are in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets, several of which have seen an increase in higher household income population due to migration (represented by the green dots below). As populations in these markets have shifted, it’s not surprising that the company is reevaluating its store portfolio in these markets.

The other factor at play behind these store closures is increasing competition. We’ve discussed disruption from Temu and other online marketplaces in the past, but dollar stores are also fighting for visitor share with value grocery chains, superstores, and convenience stores. And it’s not just lower-income consumers that these chains are fighting over–we’re seeing increasing evidence that dollar stores are seeing visits from middle income consumers. In fact, Dollar Tree CEO Rick Dreiling noted that Dollar Tree added 3.4 million new customers in 2023, mostly from households earning over $125,000 a year. We’ve previously noted how Walmart has been successful attracting more middle-income consumers but if we look at captured trade area demographics for the Dollar Tree banner (and not including Family Dollar) from Q3 2023 to Q4 2023, we do see an increase in the trade areas between $50-$150K in household income (below).

Admittedly, some of the increase in higher-income consumers can be explained by the aforementioned migration trends, but management also attributes the pick up in middle-income consumers to its multi-price point strategy called “More Choices” (which we’ve discussed in the past). In particular, we believe the company has seen success driving visits to Dollar Tree stores with its $3, $4, and $5 frozen and refrigerated assortment, which have been rolled out to more than 6,500 locations today (almost 80% of the banner’s store base as of February). The company has also discussed adding cooler capacity at Family Dollar stores; 17,000 cooler doors were added at Family Dollar last year, which brought the average to 26 coolers per store (versus a long-term goal of 30 coolers per store). We suspect that many of the closed Family Dollar stores will be replaced with new stores featuring expanded cooler offerings to better compete for customers across all demographic groups.

There are also more practical reasons for the store closures, including improved execution. Dreiling pointed out that underperforming stores can “take the bulk of a district manager's time”. By closing them, the company can better focus on service and execution at existing stores. Also, management believes that the closings will be accretive from a cash perspective (i.e., it’s cheaper to run these underperforming stores dark than it is to operate them at a loss).

When closing stores, there is always the risk that customers will churn to competing retail brands and categories. In fact, we’ve seen a meaningful number of visitors to CVS and Walgreens locations that closed the past two years migrate to nearby grocery and superstore chains. However, by replicating many of Dollar Tree’s successful strategies–including expanded cooler assortments–at future Family Dollar store openings, it gives the chain an opportunity to offset potential visitors lost to this round of closures.

Schedule a Call

Please enter your email

Thanks for reaching out!

I’ll be in touch soon

Go Back
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

RJ Hottovy

Head of Analytical Research,

R.J. Hottovy, CFA has covered the restaurant, retail, and e-commerce sectors for 20 years as an equity analyst and strategist for Morningstar, William Blair & Co., and Deutsche Bank. R.J. also brings a wealth of experience with early-stage investments as a committee member for the IrishAngels / Vitalize venture capital group. Over the past three years, he advised over 50 food service companies on more than $200 million in early-stage capital raises and M&A transactions.

Schedule a Call
Related Articles