This Is Insane – Dollar Stores Harm Consumers? Jeebus Wept

The latest insanity from the American concerned left. That dollar stores – for Brits, think like Poundland perhaps, which is a fair old copy of the concept – diminish choice for consumers and thereby harm them.

The argument is somewhat convoluted.

As dollar stores sweep across America, they are facing growing scrutiny from opponents who argue that discount chains stifle local competition and limit poor communities’ access to healthy food. Dollar stores have never been more popular. Yet a wave of cities and towns have passed laws curbing the expansion of Dollar General and Dollar Tree, which bought Family Dollar in 2015.

Yes, you read that right. They are arguing that we’ll boost competition by limiting the ability of firms to open outlets and thereby compete.

“The business model for these stores is built on saturation,” said Julia McCarthy, senior policy associate at the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and a critic of dollar stores. “When you have so many dollar stores in one neighborhood, there’s no incentive for a full-service grocery store to come in.”

Dollar stores are a recent phenomenon. Were there full service grocery stores in these areas before their arrival? Nope? Thus it’s not the dollar stores causing the absence then, is it? As to the fresh veggies thing, it’s the absence of the demand which leads to the deserts:

Fortunately, economists have studied this issue. Their inquiry reveals that when we take poor people out of these “food deserts,” their diet changes a little, but not very much, indicating that geography is not to blame. It’s not all about money either, for the purchasing of cheap and nutritious food is entirely possible, as the diets of our own grandparents and beyond show. Today’s poor have purchasing power far greater than the average income two generations ago and more than nearly any income group four generations ago or more.

The actual answer is that the poor, in those supposed commercial wastelands entirely free of a fresh vegetable or fruit, prefer the diet they eat. This, not “food deserts,” is why there are fewer businesses offering them healthier fare.

But still, just enjoy the juiciness of that argument. We must limit competition in order to foster competition.

Or, of course, we could just call this what it is. An astroturf campaign by the association of small food retail shops or some such, hiring themselves some swampdwellers in Washington DC to lie to the rest of us on their behalf. You know, stop people competing with us because, well, who the hell cares why, just because.

Your call really.

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That reminds me that about four years ago when there was a campaign to justify building a supermarket on an old factory site (instead of a mix of private and social housing) they argued that people would benefit by not having to walk into the town centre to go to Tesco and that the traffic problem could be eased by eliminating the parking for the small supermarket immediately across the road from the proposed new supermarket.