The Bottom LineThe Bottom Line

Economics in Brief: Dollar Stores Make Up Nearly Half of All New Store Openings This Year

St. Louis jobs plan reworked with greater equity focus, and a Virginia law requires some universities to create reparations-based scholarships.

(Photo by Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0)

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Dollar Stores Make Up Nearly Half of All New Store Openings This Year

About 45% of the 3,500 reported retail openings this year are Dollar General, Dollar Tree or Family Dollar, according to CNN.

Dollar store openings had been on the rise even before the pandemic, but economic fallout over the last year has exacerbated wealth inequality. And as Next City has previously reported, dollar stores proliferate in low-income neighborhoods where fresh produce and other healthy food access are scarce. According to a 2018 Institute for Local Self-Reliance report, “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 small towns and urban neighborhoods alike, dollar stores are triggering the closure of grocery stores, eliminating jobs, and further eroding the prospects of the vulnerable communities they target.” Pre-pandemic, cities such as Tulsa, Birmingham, New Orleans and Kansas City banned the opening of new dollar stores to avoid further saturating the market. .

Coresight Research, which tracks retail openings via company filings and press releases, found that of the store launches reported for this year, Dollar General was the clear leader: the chain plans to open 1,035 stores this year. Dollar Tree is next, at 393 stores, and Family Dollar, 198. Five Below, while technically not a dollar store, is the next in the list, with 158 planned openings.

“We’ve seen a bifurcation in the economy,” Ken Fenyo, the president and head of advisory and research at Coresight, told CNN. “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.”

St. Louis Jobs Plan Revamped After Critics Called for Greater Equity Focus

An economic development agency in St. Louis has released the second draft of a 10-year jobs plan, St. Louis Public Radio reports.

The first plan was released in December, even before the launch of Greater St. Louis Inc., an organization merging five economic development groups. That plan drew criticism almost immediately for not focusing enough on equity, the station said.

David Dwight IV, executive director of Forward Through Ferguson, said in the organization’s comments that the draft took “a check-the-box approach to eliminating racial inequities.”

The new plan includes a foreword that “acknowledge[s] that several organizations that have been on the front lines of the racial equity movement should have been engaged earlier in the process” and recognizes that Civic Progress, one of the five organizations that merged to become Greater St. Louis, advocated for a bond issue in 1955 that led to the demolition of a predominantly Black community. “Acknowledging both positive contributions and harmful actions is necessary and important,” the report says.

The new plan keeps its main strategies, but also adds five new goals:

  • Grow the number of quality jobs in the metro.

  • Strengthen employer commitment to buy, hire and invest locally.

  • Boost employment density in and rejuvenation of the urban core.

  • Expand Black and Brown entrepreneurship.

  • Increase the number of Black workers with quality jobs.

Virginia Law Will Require Universities to Create Reparations Scholarships

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill this week that requires five Virginia universities to create scholarships and economic development programs for the descendants of enslaved people.

DCist reports that Longwood University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Military University, and the College of William & Mary — all schools that benefited from enslaved labor — have until July 1, 2022 to create a scholarship program, as well as to identify and memorialize the enslaved people who worked at each school.

The legislation bars the universities from using state funds or tuition increases to create the scholarships. It doesn’t specify how the scholarships should be structured, as long as they provide a “tangible benefit….that will empower families to be lifted out of the cycle of poverty.” The schools must keep the program active for as many years as the school used enslaved labor, or until they have awarded scholarships to as many students as there were enslaved people working at the schools.

This article is part of The Bottom Line, a series exploring scalable solutions for problems related to affordability, inclusive economic growth and access to capital. Click here to subscribe to our Bottom Line newsletter.

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Tags: economic developmentst. louisretailreparationsvirginiadollar stores

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