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Public Post is a community reporting initiative using digital tools to report on cities and towns across Vermont.Public Post is the only resource that lets you browse and search documents across dozens of Vermont municipal websites in one place.Follow reporter Amy Kolb Noyes and #PublicPost on Twitter and read news from the Post below.

Dollar General Continues Vermont Expansion

Based on the number of stores it operates, Dollar General is the largest discount retailer in the country. According to the company’s 2012 annual report, hundreds of new stores were opened last year.  It's also clear that Dollar General has found a home in Vermont. 

There are 17 Dollar General Stores in Vermont, compared with six in New Hampshire, three in Massachusetts, and four in Connecticut.  The company lists no outlets in Maine.

If they pull off their plan here, they’ll probably be the largest retailer in the state. I think it's going to change the landscape of Vermont. -- Ray Bouffard, owner of The Georgia Market

This week the Georgia planning commission is expected to approve an application for construction of a new Dollar General.  As in some other communities, the proposed store has raised concerns about the impact on local businesses. 

About a dozen residents attended the commission’s first meeting to consider Dollar General’s application.  According to one commission member, the turnout was unprecedented and all but one person opposed the application.

The commission raised a number of concerns, which Dollar General addressed at a subsequent meeting.

If it’s built, the new Dollar General would go in next door to the Georgia Market. 

Market owner Ray Bouffard says he’s anxious about the impact the chain outlet will have on his business.

Consumables, including packaged foods and cleaning and other home products, represent the largest category of goods carried by Dollar General, accounting for nearly 75 percent of what is sold in its stores.   The Georgia Market sells many of the same products.

As a company with more than 10,000 stores in 40 states, Dollar General can take advantage of an economy of scale that Bouffard says puts him at a disadvantage.

Bouffard has been checking Dollar General’s prices against his own.   

“As an example, they’ve got Hunt’s Spaghetti Sauce,” he explains.  “Their retail is 99 cents.  It costs me $1.25.  That’s my cost.  I can’t even drop to their retail without losing money on every can I sell.”

Bouffard says his business employs 30 people, all of whom make above minimum wage.  He also supports a variety of civic causes.  He fears his role as an employer and as a community member will suffer if he has to compete with a Dollar General. 

Despite that, he has no plans to fight the proposed store.  “I’ve allowed myself to accept that they’re going to come,” Bouffard says.  He’s determined to try to compete with them.   “It may mean putting in more frozen foods, doing more with expanding my perishable department, rather than spending $100,000 to fight these guys.”

As Dollar General builds more Vermont stores, other grocers may have to adjust as well.  The company is selling beer, wine and tobacco at some outlets and it has launched a line of "Plus" stores that feature larger frozen and refrigerated food sections.  Another addition is the line of Dollar General Market stores which feature fresh meats and produce.

“If they pull off their plan here, they’ll probably be the largest retailer in the state,” says Bouchard.  "I think it's going to change the landscape of Vermont." 

Bouffard is a member of the board of directors of the Vermont Grocers Association.  He says the trade group has not taken a position on the growth of Dollar General in Vermont.  According to Bouffard, while Dollar General is not a member of the association, the group sees itself as representing all Vermont grocers.

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