Shoppers turn to dollar stores

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:50

Pinching pennies benefits vendors and consumers alike Wantage — Discount stores are high profile these days. As personal budgets shrink, the family dollar is squeezed to cover more territory, and the so-called dollar store has gained a new status among a greater number of shoppers. Locally, as all over the country, dollar stores are seeing an uptick in business. New stores are opening and existing dollar stores are broadening their lines to offer everyday products that shoppers want for about a dollar. Country Dollar Plus of Wantage opened in December, selling everything from party supplies to household cleaning products. Risky business? Why chance opening a new business in an unstable economy? For John Maione Jr., the answer is one part timing: “We felt that there’s always been a need (for inexpensive products) and maybe even a greater need now. With this model we’ll never offer as much as a Walmart but what we do offer, we can sell for less.” Another factor for Maione, though, is his family’s greater vision. The Maoines own Town Center at Wantage, off Route 23, where Country Dollar Plus is located. The complex also includes apartments and a group of other shops and office space. Plans for more apartments are in the works. As with the Maoines, operating a discount shop is often a family affair. Three years ago Sam and Lydia Sulieman opened 99 Cents Kraze in the A&P Plaza in Vernon on Route 515. They keep the shop open seven days a week and offer items at 99 cents and up. The Suliemans say they have repeat customers who are looking for bargains, from senior citizens to parents who bring their children to shop for birthday gifts and party supplies. Lydia Sulieman says she can often detect the financial stress many people are feeling. George Gluckler, owner of Dollar Plus on Route 94 in Vernon, says he’s finding that people are doing less impulse buying these days than they used to. Shoppers are tending to buy household necessities like cleaning supplies, aluminum products and pre-packaged foods. About 35 percent of his merchandise sells for more than a dollar, Gluckler said. That’s what Maione says, too. A recent study published in Advertising Age shows that the recession has moved even loyal brand-shoppers to buying off-brand products. When every dollar counts, consumers once content to pay top dollar for a product they knew they could count on are venturing out to see what else is on the shelf. And often, they’re finding those goods on the shelves of the dollar stores. — By JoAnn MacDougall and Beth Kalet Share and share alike While John Maione Jr. tailors his merchandise to the demands of his clientele, he’s also working on a grand plan. After he pays his four employees’ salaries, covers his expenses and takes a modest salary himself, Maione says he plows the rest of his profits back to charity. His philosophy: “Basically my thinking with the store: a company takes a certain toll on the earth and humanity in a lot of different ways. Christ calls us to be charitable, to love our neighbors as well as ourselves and if I take all of the profit I’m not properly loving neighbors — humanity.”