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Dollar General could double store count

Dollar General has aggressive expansion plans that include opening 1,050 stores this year and potentially doubling its store count, which stood at 17,177 locations at the end of January. 

The discounter also plans to open larger stores and expand its more upscale-looking Popshelf concept, with both freestanding locations and in-store shops in Dollar General. 

The discounter's plans for its current fiscal year include opening 1,050 stores, remodeling 1,750 sites and relocating 100 stores. Included in the expansion is the rollout of two larger-sized formats, both of which it began testing last year. The first has approximately 8,500 sq. ft. of selling space compared to about 7,300 sq. ft. in a traditional Dollar General. The second is even larger with approximately 9,500 sq. ft. of selling space. It will be deployed opportunistically across new store relocation and remodel opportunities, the company said.

Dollar General's plans also call for the expansion of Popshelf, which debuted in 2020 and now has five locations. The format combines continually updated merchandise, a differentiated in-store experience and value, with about 95% of the items priced at $5 or less.

"We are now targeting to have a total of up to 50 Popshelf stores opened by year-end compared to our previous goal of about 30 total locations," Dollar General COO Jeff Owen told analysts on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call. "In addition, we also plan to incorporate this concept in up to 25 Dollar General stores in 2021."

The in-store Popshelf concept will be prominently positioned in the center of the store, which will display both Dollar General and Popshelf branding on exterior entrances to build and maximize awareness, Owen said.  

“From these initial stores, our goal is to test, learn and ultimately expand to more locations over time as we look to leverage the unique strengths of these complementary formats,” he added.

Looking further out, Dollar General estimates it could add a total of as many as 17,000 stores across the country, which would roughly double its current footprint. The company estimates there are now approximately 13,000 additional small-box store opportunities in the Continental United States that are are available for a Dollar General store, compared to its prior estimate of nearly 12,000 opportunities.

In addition, Popshelf could add approximately 3,000 new locations, and there are about 1,000 opportunities available for its 8,500-sq.-ft. format.

"When taken together, we estimate there are a total of approximately 17,000 new store opportunities available across our format types which we believe represents a long runway for new unit growth," Owen said.

Overall, Dollar General's real estate pipeline remains robust," Owen said, "and we are excited about the significant new store opportunities ahead."

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