The wildly uneven US economic recovery since the virus pandemic began in early 2020 has given rise to dangerous levels of inequality, otherwise known as the "K-shaped" recovery. The "K" represents an immediate recovery for the rich but continued economic hardships for the working poor. Payrolls are still millions of jobs short of pre-COVID levels, and millions of others continue collecting stimulus checks. Corporate America understands this souring picture and has found a way to capitalize on an increasingly larger population of working poor Americans by opening a flurry of dollar stores across the country.
Coresight Research, a firm that focuses on retail & technology companies, reports about 45% of the 3,597 store openings of large chains in the US this year are from Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar.
The pandemic resulted in millions of Americans who instantly fell into poverty and will remain there as the economy is short 8 million jobs from pre-COVID levels. Many of these folks enjoy the high-life, collecting Biden stimulus checks with minimal incentive to find a job.
Corporate America understands the dynamics at play as failed fiscal and monetary policies could not lift all boats. Anyone who owned stocks, bonds, real estate, classic cars, fine art, wine, and anything else of value saw incredible valuation gains over the past year as those without assets (working poor) saw very little financial improvements besides a few government stimulus checks.
This means that millions of folks in a pre-Covid world who shopped at middle to upper-class shops can no longer afford and have migrated to low-income dollar stores for survival. Corporate America is capitalizing on this trend by expanding these stores at a very fast clip.
"We've seen a bifurcation in the economy," said Ken Fenyo, the president and head of advisory and research at Coresight. "So while the wealthy have done well and continue to do well since the Great Recession, there's certainly a lot of the population that has not done as well. The dollar stores appeal strongly to that segment of the population. That's probably the overriding reason we see for the growth in the format."
The recent surge of new dollar stores across the country is indicative not of a robust recovery but one that is extremely uneven, benefiting a handful at the expense of the many, with deep residual scarring that may last a generation.