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The Real Reason Dollar Stores Are Everywhere

Cities have tried to slow the spread of the discount stores in low-income neighborhoods.

(Photo by Phillip PessarCC BY 2.0)

Why are there so many dollar stores?

Nearly half of all stores that opened during 2020 was a dollar store, according to Coresight Research, which tracks retail across the country. That’s no surprise to Jerry Shannon, whose research shows the discount stores are prevalent in low-income areas. 

“There can be a problem when you frame dollar stores as the villain in the story,” says Shannon, “you might think of them more as an accomplice.”

Shannon is an associate professor in the geography department at the University of Georgia. He first began looking into why dollar stores seem to proliferate in low-income areas after reading a study in 2018 from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which found that, “While dollar stores sometimes fill a need in cash-strapped communities, growing evidence suggests these stores are not merely a byproduct of economic distress. They’re a cause of it.”

In this episode of the podcast, Next City executive director Lucas Grindley talks with Shannon, and with reporter Adina Solomon, who examined the steps cities are taking to slow the spread of dollar stores

Listen to this episode below, or subscribe to Next City’s podcast on Apple and Spotify.

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