Dollar Tree, the company that purchased Family Dollar in 2015, this week announced plans to sell alcohol in 1,000 select stores across the country.
Family Dollar, which serves low- and middle-income neighborhoods and has more than 8,000 stores nationwide, introduced sales of adult beverages at 45 stores in the first quarter, it said in a news release.
The plans are part of a larger company “store optimization” to improve performance that also includes expanding freezers and coolers in 400 Family Dollar stores and rebranding 200 Family Dollar stores to the Dollar Tree brand.
“We are simply providing customers with a convenient option to purchase adult beverage product while shopping for everyday needs at their neighborhood store,” Kayleigh Painter, investor and media relations manager for Dollar Tree, said.
She would not say which locations would sell alcohol and did not specify what kinds of alcohol would be sold. She did not respond to questions about sales prices.
The announcement comes as Dollar Tree also said it expects to close 390 Family Dollar stores in 2019.
The company’s first-quarter sales increased 4.6 percent to $5.81 billion compared with $5.55 billion in the first quarter of 2018, the company said in its news release. Although overall sales appear to be improving, Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData Retail, had a different take on the bargain chain’s plans to sell alcohol.
“Adding alcohol will be helpful inasmuch as it will drive some additional footfall into the stores and those customers will likely go on to purchase other products, such as snacks,” he said. “However, adding alcohol is not a silver bullet for Family Dollar.”
The plan did not sit well with some customers. Latisha White, a mother of six who lives in Baltimore, expressed concerns about the decision on the company’s Facebook page.
“Family Dollar why are you selling alcohol in neighborhoods that are already infested with liquor stores,” she wrote.
“It’s basically damaging to the neighborhood,” White, 35, said in an interview. “I don’t really see a need to have that. You already have enough poison in the neighborhood.”
White said she shops at Family Dollar once or twice a week and limits her purchases to household items. She said she’s concerned about what selling alcohol may do to her neighborhood, which already has a large number of liquor stores.
“When I leave from my house to Family Dollar, which is probably a 10- or 15-minute walk, I pass by five liquor stores,” she said. “I would say within five miles, it’s probably about 30 liquor stores. I just don’t understand the need.”
George F. Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said that while higher income groups tend to use alcohol more, “lower socioeconomic groups suffer more from alcohol intake.”
“When individuals in lower socioeconomic groups do alcohol, they do higher-intensity drinking,” Koob said. “The binges are more intense and so they really suffer more from alcohol availability.”
He said selling alcohol in family-friendly places such as supermarkets and Family Dollar stores speaks to a larger problem.
“When you look into social psychology of failure to self-regulate, there are three factors: strength, monitoring your behavior and standards,” he said. “Standards are the things that we use as a baseline or a guide to tell us what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate. I think selling alcohol in a supermarket begs what I would call a standard self-regulation problem.”