Dollar store girl

Everybody admits to a quirk or two, and mine happens to be a predilection for dollar stores. I love browsing their aisles. I like to tour them whenever I’m in a strange city, or just an obscure shopping plaza in a town I’ve visited a hundred times.

Who can resist the wrapping paper and gift bags; the school supplies and stationary; the cheap glass vases and dinnerware, and the discounted books, and the plastic containers; and the toys that might last a week? Who knew that you could get so much stuff for so little money?

Dollar stores are the perfect place to find bridal shower decorations, the perfect place for birthday party treat bags, for holiday-theme parties, for science projects, and for any celebration that requires a budget and party favours. Even if you’re not particularly creative, you can find all kinds of inspiration in the stores’ aisles.

They’ve become so popular, these dollar stores, that heavyweight media offer regular reports on what to purchase and what to avoid. (So as not to keep you guessing about the latter, here’s a quick tip: brand name products on the shelves may have a lower price tag, but that’s only because they are smaller in quantity.) I digress, however. The fact is, dollar stores have turned into a regular trending topic. I remember a decade ago reading a long New York Times Magazine piece about them, headlined “Dollar Store Economy” and shadowing a woman who, while tremendously successful in real estate, spent her spare time in dollar stores shopping for craft supplies for projects for her craft blog.

Even at times when we are told that the economy is galloping full steam ahead, dollar stores remain a trend. That’s because, really, who doesn’t love a bargain? What they are, who shops in them, and what they represent, are all topics you’ll hear discussed in TV and newspaper stories. Forbes’ Web site, for instance, has had several pieces on the dollar store phenomenon, including one about them being the true retail disruptors — a good point, since the two biggest dollar chains in America have more stores than the six biggest U.S. retailers put together.

Contained in that Forbes article was a list of fun facts and figures about dollar stores. In 2016, there were 30,496 in the U.S., and by 2021, they’re expected to number about 38,000. Even by Forbes’ standards, this is impressive at a time when so many other retailers are closing their brick-and-mortar assets.

I’m not surprised. Though the available stats are from America, discount shopping is as popular as ever. Dollar stores around here are hopping, especially around any holiday. And even when we’re not a few days from celebrating something it can be hard to find a parking space or walk through the aisles without bumping into people because it’s packed. And it’s people of every station in life, whether or not they HAVE to spend less they still choose to do just that. I can promise you, if I won the 6/49 tomorrow, I would still shop at dollar stores as much as I do now. Why wouldn’t I?

The concept behind dollar stores isn’t new. I’m sure everyone remembers the wondrous bounty of stores from days gone by like Morrison’s in St. Peter’s and the 5 to a $1 in Antigonish. No hint of Amazon back then, but you could pretty much find everything you needed on those shelves anyway. More recently, a new player has muscled in, providing a variation on the theme — Five Below is a new store where everything is under $5.

But not everyone is a fan. Some shoppers hate the knock-offs and the low-end products. They claim savings are a mirage because the products are cheap. They’re suspicious of the food products and toiletries. (I’ll admit, I might not be comfortable relying on the validity of a $1 pregnancy test.)

The naysayers have got it all wrong, though. I’ve been happy with my purchases of Tootsie Rolls, clothes hangers, school project supplies, kitchen utensils, nail files, and a huge assortment of toys in my basement that kept my kids occupied for a time, even if that time was only a few minutes. I’m fully aware I’m not shopping at The Bay or Neiman Marcus and, hence, my expectations are correspondingly modest. I’m rarely disappointed.

Now that we’ve got that settled, can I show you the cool flour canister I bought for a buck?