If you're not a dollar-store shopper, you could be missing out. Consumer Reports ShopSmart surveyed 1,500 women and found that about 75 percent of them are shopping at dollar stores more than they used to.
Dollar stores are really growing and expanding into a lot of new markets, and many people who might have never shopped there before are giving them a second look in this economy. Favorite purchases are paper and plastic goods, cleaning products, party supplies, storage items, and toiletries.
ShopSmart also sent out secret shoppers to check prices on 38 everyday products. They shopped at Dollar General and Family Dollar. Then they compared the prices at Walmart, Target, and some supermarkets.
Walmart had the lowest prices on the most items. Supermarkets had the highest prices by far. But dollar stores were very competitive. Dollar General had the best deals on five products — Jiffy peanut butter, Planters peanuts, Lipton tea, Heinz tomato sauce and Coca Cola — with savings between 12 and 28 percent. And ShopSmart finds that you can save even more on private-label brands at dollar stores.
The dollar stores have changed a lot, especially over the last five years or so. They're better organized, they have cleaner aisles, they have a lot more products, and they're really designed to get you in and out very quickly. So ShopSmart says it's easier than ever to scope out dollar-store savings.
The biggest complaints among women ShopSmart surveyed were limited selection and availability. But dollar stores, especially big chains such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and 99 Cents Only, are working hard to change that by stocking more brand-name products and rolling out new and improved stores across the country.