By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2004-07-01 Print this article Print

Dollar General opens two new stores every day. The secret isn't Miracle-Gro. Instead, there's a well-honed choreography of human muscle and precision logistics that sets up each new outlet in little more than a week. We take you inside what Dollar General

Day 7 - Filling In

  • Where to put the "automatics"

  • Packing trucks twice as fast

  • Plugging in coolers

    A final truck arrives with seasonal and special-buy items, including the Brocsonic TVs from Japan, $10 lava lamps and $20 rolling kitchen carts. Dollar General calls those goods "automatics" because they're automatically sent to all stores without having been ordered.

    In Jersey Shore, the kitchen carts go in a knick-knack area toward the front, near the clothing. "That's the kind of stuff that a browsing-type customer is going to look at," Hallstrom explains. No sense putting products that call for contemplation near items that purposeful shoppers want to grab quickly, such as milk or detergent, she says.

    Also on the third truck is any fill-in merchandise that was missing from the first two deliveries. That happens when the closest warehouse is temporarily short. The goal is to have all stores within 250 miles of a warehouse. To help stock the Southeast, where the most Dollar General stores are concentrated, the company plans to spend $70 million to build an eighth facility in Jonesville, S.C., next year.

    At two of its other distribution centers, dual-sorting systems—two parallel conveyor belts from the floor to the loading dock—pack trucks twice as fast as single conveyors can.

    Back in Whitesboro, Longway has contacted local food companies to schedule delivery of milk, bread, cheese and other perishables. She now takes charge of setting up three refrigerated coolers. The job is generally done on the last or second-to-last day of setup to avoid smelly food spoilage.

    Perishables come from local vendors, and prices aren't as uniform across all stores as with Dollar General's own merchandise. A gallon of Lehigh Farms whole milk goes for $3.45 in Jersey Shore. In Whitesboro, a gallon of Meadow Brook milk is $2.50.

    Also unlike Dollar General's own products, cooler items get counted and verified on arrival at stores. The delivery truck driver will bring in boxes and place his quarts and gallons of product on racks in the cooler, while a store manager or assistant manager checks off line items on paper orders.

    More new stores will offer more perishable food than ever. Plus, the chain also this year will open 20 Dollar General Market stores, which are double the size of a regular outlet and focus on supermarket-style products.

    "Food is the direction," Anzor says.

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    Senior Writer
    Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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