The Future of Shopping

May 5, 2023

Shopping never really changes: You browse, you select, you pay. And ­occasionally, if it doesn’t work out, you return. But dig into the details of how you do any of those tasks today, and everything about shopping is changing. Technology and shifts in consumer expectations accelerated by the pandemic are transforming the online and in-store experience from start to finish.

Whether you frequent dollar stores or upscale retailers, shopping is getting easier and more fun with faster delivery options; quick, cashless checkouts; virtual try-ons; and instant customer service. Other trends, like cash-back apps and the move by major retailers to sell secondhand goods, make it easier to save.

Dollar stores are taking over

Between the top two chains — Dollar General, with 19,000 locations, and Dollar Tree, which also owns Family Dollar and has more than 16,000 locations — there are more than six times as many dollar stores in the U.S. as there are Walmarts. Thousands more are on the way; another chain, Five Below, has more than 1,300 stores and plans to add a record 200 this year.

Bargain-seeking shoppers pinched by inflation are driving the surge in store openings, according to Gravy Analytics. More than 1 in 5 Americans reported buying food at Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General in the last quarter of 2022, according to Coresight Research. A 2021 survey by Consumer Reports found that 88 percent of Americans shop at dollar stores at least sometimes.

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