The new Dollar Days store in the Westgate Mall is the largest store in regional chain that includes four other locations.
Owner Dave Stock, who lives in Superior, Wis., said the idea of a store where everything on the shelves costs $1 is a updated model of the old five and dime stores.
Toys, food, household supplies. Dollar Days has an eclectic inventory.
Stock said he had been looking in the Brainerd area for a store location for awhile. When the former Thrifty White turned boat display space opened in the Westgate Mall, he said it was the right size at the right price.
Stock has stores in Superior, Duluth, Virginia and St. Cloud. Brainerd is the fifth and largest store at about 9,000 square feet. Stock has been in business about three years but has ties -- through the same buyers with 10 Big Dollar Stores in the Twin Cities area. In the Westgate Mall, the Dollar Days store employs 15 full- and part-time workers.
Stock said he was not sure how the closing of the Only Deals store will affect him, adding that store had dollar items but also carried a mix of inventory that was more expensive. Stock said the two stores were different enough they were able to survive in the same market.
Dollar Days buys close-out or discontinued items. Stock said because the chain is small they can buy smaller amounts for their stores. A sale of close-out or surplus times may come in a single truckload.
"When it's gone here, it's gone and that's what customers have a hard time understanding," Stock said.
The store has specific departments from food to toys but may not have specific items like paper clips every time a customer shops. Stock said it can go from feast to famine in paper clips or spaghetti sauce. As Stock toured the store, a customer stopped to inquire about a case of honey.
Stock said the store's inventory comes from buying loads of surplus or discontinued items. Those items include brand names from shampoos to Kellogg's Mini-Wheats. Other brands come from Target and Wal-Mart, Stock said. Individual stores may have 10 items that are discontinued and returned to the warehouse. The numbers add up when all the stores return the merchandise.
"Then they sell to places like us," Stock said. "It works."
Stock acknowledged dollar stores have a thin margin and there are many that do not survive. He said an advantage of having everything at a $1 is the customer recognition and store marketing.
"We look for items that have a value as a $1 other than something that can sell for $1," Stock said. "It is tough. There is a lot of turnover in the dollar stores. ... Discount stores are a tough business."
One product example came from a display of Stove Top Oven Classics food boxes. Stock said the product sells for more than a dollar in grocery stores and it is that type of close-out inventory that can attract customers to the store. Those customers may also find a few other items to add to their carts in the process. Stock said some items give the store a 5 cent profit. But if the customer is excited about the find and the price, Stock said they will make more profit in other sales. And the good deals create repeat customers.
In a newer move, Stock said the regional chain also had some things made specifically for them in China. This season they were able to market Minnesota mugs that way.
"That's a big step for us," Stock said.
The Westgate Mall store opened in early October. Stock said he plans to be in the area for the long term.
"We've actually had a hard time keeping the shelves full in Brainerd," Stock said. "It's been a good Christmas season."
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