How many Dollar Generals are in Horry County, Myrtle Beach?
The neighborhood dime store, like the ones scattered across rural communities in the 20th century, is going extinct. But it hasn’t been replaced entirely by Walmart or Amazon, as the growth of the dollar store has shuttered many local shops.
Known for quick access and low-cost products, these convenience stores are becoming a staple of rural life. And in Horry County, Dollar General outnumbers the rest.
Horry County got its first Dollar General in 1993 and has since seen 46 brick-and-mortar stores pop up in the county.
Dollar General is a nationwide chain based out of Tennessee with 15,227 stores in the United States as of November 2018. That is more brick-and-mortar stores than McDonald’s has. The stores carry a variety of household and food items. In 2017, the store brought in $23 billion in net sales.
Texas has the most, but South Carolina is among the states with highest number of stores located within its borders.
The dollar store has found a home in rural regions many businesses might overlook, bringing jobs and resources along with it.
The corporation has a distribution center located in Jonesville, a small town in the Upstate of South Carolina. It is one 15 such locations in the United States. and is regularly posting job openings just outside Spartanburg.
Locally, the shops have opened up in some of the most rural areas of Horry County. One location north of Conway along U.S. 701 is the only store for miles in each direction. According to a Dollar General spokesperson Angela Petkovic, a store’s location and inventory is based off the needs of the community surrounding it.
“We know convenience is a major factor in our customers’ shopping decisions as we generally serve customers within a 3- to 5-mile radius, or 10-minute drive,” she said.
Petkovic added that the company takes into account the character of the community and traffic when deciding on a new location.
Interim Horry County Planning Director David Schwerd said the growth has slowed in recent years. He said that during the period of 2009 through 2015 was when he remembers the most applications to build a Dollar General coming through his office. The stores operate in both the rural and urban parts of the community, and Schwerd said they can use almost any commercial zoning districts to be built.
One benefit of these smaller stores, Schwerd said, is they’re relatively small and do not create a huge increase in traffic.
In the first half of 2018, the chain built 510 new stores nationwide. The company said at the beginning of the year it hoped to build 900 stores, according to a 2018 report sent to Dollar General shareholders.
To put it into a regional context, within a 100-mile radius of the SkyWheel in downtown Myrtle Beach, there are 276 Dollar General stores. The number of stores locally increases when you give Dollar General time to expand eastward, not blocked by the Atlantic Ocean. From downtown Conway, there are over 300 stores within a 100-mile radius. From the state capital building in Columbia, the number exceeds 500 stores within the same radius.
For comparison, McDonald’s has 29 locations within 50 miles of Myrtle Beach.
According to the Dollar General report, the number of stores continues to grow nationwide, as more and more communities see stores built at a rapid pace. As of the end of 2018, no new stores were planned for Horry County.
Locally, during Hurricane Florence, Dollars Generals donated goods to flood victims and raised money for the American Red Cross. According to a corporate press release, the company gave truckloads of water and $100,000 to the aid organization that oversaw a lot of the recovery efforts in Horry County.
While not specifically an Horry County initiative, Dollar General tries to return some of its profits to areas it operates in. In addition to the business side, it oversees several different charitable programs looking to increase literacy. Part of the literacy foundation gives funding to adults to learn basic reading skills or to learn English as a second language.
Marie Donahue, a researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance that advocates for consumers and governments prioritizing local business over chains, said the stores quickly move into an area due to low costs to build. They operate on a low-cost budget with only a handful of employees per store.
“Their growth has a real impact on local grocery stores,” Donahue said.
For Donahue and the other researchers she works with, Dollar General is taking money out of the local economy and moving it back to corporate headquarters to pay out-of-area shareholders.
“That is really leaving behind places that have been under invested in,” she said.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance advocated for local governments to offer business incentives to small, local grocery stores like the ones they might to offer to a bigger corporation. This can include tax breaks, economic incentives to open a store or promotional events.
In Horry County, there are already some special programs to help local business, like a special tax incentive for people who open shop in historic areas.