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Dollar General Part of Broader Chinese Threat to South Dakota’s Economic Well-Being

China poses a threat to South Dakota’s economic security, all right, not with the trivial advantage of harvesting data from TikTok instead of buying personal info from myriad other sources, but with outposts of economic sabotage on the edges of small towns across South Dakota called Dollar General.

An eager reader puts these dots together:

Before serving Georgia in the U.S. Senate, David Perdue built a business career on moving jobs to China and other cheap labor countries in Asia. As CEO of Dollar General from 2003 to 2007, Perdue opened an affiliate in China and increased the company’s imports. In 2021, Kristi Noem campaigned for Perdue in Georgia, shouting that his opponent, the ultimately successful Jon Ossoff, was a communist, while ignoring the fact that Perdue had done actual business with China.

Dollar General’s Form 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2022 says China is a “substantial” source of its merchandise:

While we are working to diversify our sources of imported goods, a substantial amount of our imported merchandise comes from China, and thus, a change in the Chinese leadership, the effects of pandemic outbreaks including COVID-19, economic and market conditions, internal economic stimulus actions, or currency or other policies, as well as trade relations between China and the United States and increases in costs of labor, could negatively impact our merchandise costs. We experienced delays in the receipt of certain goods from international and domestic shipping origins as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and more general global supply chain constraints in fiscal 2021. Depending on the continued extent and duration of these constraints and disruptions, our supply chain, results of operations (including sales) or future business may be materially and adversely impacted. In addition, the United States’ foreign trade policies, duties, tariffs and other impositions on imported goods, trade sanctions imposed on certain countries (particularly China) and entities, import limitations on certain types of goods or of goods containing certain materials from other countries and other factors relating to foreign trade and port labor agreements are beyond our control. These and other factors affecting our suppliers and our access to products could adversely affect our business and financial performance. If we increase our product imports from foreign vendors, the risks associated with these imports also will increase, and we may be exposed to additional or different risks as we increase imports of goods produced in countries other than China [Dollar General, Form 10-K: Annual Report for Fiscal Year Ended January 28, 2022, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, signed 2022.03.18, p. 16].

Dollar General operates 71 stores in 63 South Dakota towns. Many of these stores popped up in the last decade as part of Dollar General’s plan to expand in rural America to capture poor, isolated customers. Those stores provide welcome cheap groceries for folks an hour’s drive from the nearest supermarket, but they also provide crap wages. Payscale.com lists average wages for Dollar General store workers nationwide of $12/hour or less. Indeed.com lists a Dollar General cashier position in South Dakota at $10/hour, a couple assistant store manager jobs at $12.26/hour, and South Dakota store manager positions at $36,440. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Dollar General pays 92% of its workers less than $15/hour.

Dollar General uses cheap products from China to keep its costs down. The company also apparently boosts profits by keeping store wages down. Dollar General and other dollar stores provide China with more outlets for their cheap manufacturing output while they drive independent local grocers out of business, lowering the quality of groceries available in their communities and locking more residents into subservient low-wage jobs. Dollar General thus helps China do far more real practical damage to the economic fabric of life in rural America than China may be doing by knowing how often folks in Corsica watch Charli D’Amelio dancing on TikTok.

Governor Noem has issued an order banning the state from doing business with China and other “evil” countries. But Noem campaigned for the Dollar General CEO who increased China’s grip on America’s consumers, and she has no apparent strategy for dealing with Chinese infiltration and sabotage of rural American retail.

17 Comments

  1. Mark Anderson 2023-01-23 07:34

    Well, putting in my two cents on Dollar General is easy. They have a high powered beer that is cheap South Dakotans. It will not meth you up.

  2. larry kurtz 2023-01-23 07:56

    It won’t be long before South Dakota resorts to enslaving people convicted of trumped up charges to work in the Dollar General just outside every reservation.

  3. Donald Pay 2023-01-23 10:01

    Anyone remember Pamida, and Gibson’s. They mainly operated in small town/rural areas. Originally Walmart focused on smaller cities. The places where the big guys forget, there is a niche market. These outfits last about 10-20 years, then fold or get bought out.

    Cory says: “Dollar General uses cheap products from China to keep its costs down.” That’s the free market. So is paying starvation wages, which is quite common for all businesses in South Dakota. Americans love cheap prices above quality, service and paying living wages to workers. The problem is not China. The problem is Americans.

  4. P. Aitch 2023-01-23 10:29

    I’ve not shopped at a Dollar General. Have family members who do a lot, though. Have walked by the front of a Dollar General on the way to a Vietnamese Pho shop. Observed really dirty floors and unkept aisles in the Dollar General.

  5. All Mammal 2023-01-23 14:38

    P. Aitch- I have actually been working on a report card to serve several businesses with store fronts in my neighborhood. By allowing someone to make money off my people in my neighborhood, I feel you must be a good neighbor. I tell you what, the pictures I have shot of the Dollar Generals’ facade are gross. I am talking garbage everywhere, cig butts by the thousands, syringes! They not only get an F-, they should get a court order to clean up or get out. Kids should not have to walk past that on their way to school. Sometimes residents take things into their own hands when businesses don’t take heed to their reasonable requirements. If they do nothing to improve their grade, lets just say they will be ran off. Sweep the sidewalk, clean the front door, make sure packaging gets in the dumpster and we will be cool.

    The locally owned businesses all received A’s and B’s. You can tell who has pride and respects the local patrons.

  6. Bonnie B Fairbank 2023-01-23 15:59

    Donald Pay:
    There WAS a Pamida at 2701 Highway 18, outside Hot Springs city limits, built after 2001. It became a ShopKo, which, of course, did not last long, because most people decided they’d rather drive to Rapid City or Chadron to shop at Walmart.
    I am too stupid and naive to understand all the financial screwing involved, but the building itself now houses a Bomgaars, which has a history of acquiring ShopKo properties.
    The problem is, indeed, Americans.

  7. P. Aitch 2023-01-23 18:06

    Good for you, All Mammal. You surely seem like a good neighbor. Continue being proactive but don’t think I’m telling you what to do. Just admiring the diamond character which you exemplify. :)

  8. larry kurtz 2023-01-23 18:22

    Food deserts are real and the Kroger/Albertson’s deal will only consolidate wealth among shareholders holding eaters for ransom.

  9. larry kurtz 2023-01-23 19:11

    Government steps in where avarice fails, right? Think Buche in reservation border towns and Liz May having the resources to buy off victims of violence after sucking at the SNAP udder for decades.

  10. larry kurtz 2023-01-23 19:14

    EBT keeps people alive and scum like Bud May at the surface of the pond.

  11. grudznick 2023-01-23 19:47

    In a roundabout way, my close personal friend Lar points out the EBT business of welfare keeps young Mr. May’s ma in clothes, as well. She takes a lot of the EBT as a grocer. Voted the prettiest grocer in the SW corner of SD 2 years running, in fact.

  12. Mark Bickett 2023-01-23 20:40

    Mr Pay, you say ‘Americans’ desire for cheaper goods caused our problems, have you wondered why it is that said Americans were so keen to acquire goods at a lower cost? Perhaps the buying power of their wages were diminished which made it necessary to seek cheaper goods. Meanwhile the merchants peddling the goods were able to pocket higher margins and justify lower pay since the cheap goods were cheap enough to avoid increasing wages?

    The desire to get things cheap is only surpassed by the desire to thump thy neighbor for profit.

  13. All Mammal 2023-01-23 23:03

    Back atcha, P. I will do what you say because you stand for good and won’t steer me wrongÜ

    Any town where dreck mongers want to plop a Dollar General or Walmart should fight like a she-bear to keep them out. They will turn the community into a dismal, overweight, unhealthy, crime-ridden blight.

    Rapid City’s Falls Apart Super Centers started out with lower prices and more selection than other stores. Their long-game slowly asphyxiated places where my friends’ parents worked at when I was a kid. Jobs that could support raising families like Pay-less Shoes, Radio Shack, KMart, ShopKo, Rex, Prairie Market, Albertson’s, Herberger’s, Sear’s, Ritz Camera, Dan’s Supermarket, are just a few of the casualties.

    Once Wall Shart eliminated competition, they jacked up their prices, stopped offering any variety, refused to pay employees full-time hours to avoid paying benefits, got rid of human checkout cashiers, reduced store hours by colluding with RCPD to close at 11 pm, and began treating customers like cattle by flipping over carts, using them to corral people and block off exits and entire portions of the store. Now we have no choice but to put on our bath towel poncho and flesh-colored skinny pants and shop at their crappy, rude store that pretty much only sells their generic poison. Plus there aren’t any jobs, let alone competition.

    Walmart and Dollar General in= cops and a whole lot of funky meth-mouthed zombies abound. El cheapo=no bueno.

    Q: where does Walmart keep its terminator toys?
    A: aisle B, back

  14. M 2023-01-24 06:45

    Family Dollar and Dollar General only have female workers here, mostly overworked, underpaid, and not happy campers so it causes turnover. The stores are generally unclean because the corporation won’t send their cleaners 100 miles to do so and boxes are stacked everywhere because the one employee at the counter has no time to stock the shelves. It’s been like this since they opened. They don’t employ as many as Shopco, Alco, or Gibsons did. The 2 local grocery stores fight like hell to keep any other stores out.

    The people with money shop in Bismarck and Aberdeen so the fixed income and lower income residents actually keep this town alive, along with the country folk who don’t drive 100 miles to the closest city. People complain about EBT but without it, the 2 grocery stores would close.

    Use to have a J C Penney store and a Sears outlet, but now I can’t even find a bra in town except at Family Dollar or Dollar General. No thanks guess I won’t wear one anymore.

  15. M 2023-01-24 06:58

    I forgot to mention, a small bag of Dove Chocolate is $3.25 at Dollar General yet costs $5.95 and $6.25 at the grocery stores..

  16. Wade Brandis 2023-01-24 13:12

    In addition to low wages, DG also keeps staffing levels low to cut costs even further. I’ve been to DG in both Winner and Madison, and there have been days where there is only one staff member running the entire store. Only one.

    I will admit I am a semi-regular shopper at the Madison DG. Here, Sunshine Foods still has a tight grip on the town, being the only local full-line grocery store. Lewis Drug has expanded their grocery offerings, but like DG, it’s mostly prepackaged processed foods and soft drinks. With Sunshine’s prices being so high, a lot of Madison folks travel to Brookings or Sioux Falls for weekly grocery shopping. The ones that can’t travel out of town or don’t have reliable transportation end up going to DG, where it can get very busy at certain times of the day. When there is only one store employee working during these peak times, lines at the register get very long and what was meant to be a five minute trip to pick up Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese can end up turning into 15 minutes if you get stuck at the end of that line.

    Another issue with dollar stores is store cleanliness. Most DG stores I’ve been to are a mess. Unorganized shelves, finding products past their ‘Best by’ dates because the small staff don’t have time or don’t care to rotate products properly, and the biggest safety issue… massive carts full of unopened shipments from the DG warehouse sitting in the middle of store aisles. And more often than not, that massive cart of stuff is sitting right in front of the shelf where the product you actually want is at. You can’t move the cart because it’s too heavy and stuff may start falling from the top. These cleanliness issues aren’t limited to DG either. Family Dollar/Dollar Tree are just as guilty of having cluttered unsafe stores. OSHA has even fined DG many times over these safety issues, yet they still occur after the fact.

    Below is a video from a YouTube creator called Retail Archeology. He typically goes and documents various kinds of retail chains, typically ones that are on the verge of bankruptcy or going out of business. His DG video is an exception. The video is from four years ago, and the creator at the time didn’t understand how such a messy retailer can be so successful. Thankfully the comment section has since filled him in, touching on many of the same points mentioned here and in the linked articles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiD5pC9DkBs

  17. 96Tears 2023-01-24 14:41

    It’s not news to prove Republican hypocrisy in South Dakota, but when Kristi Noem makes a signature order to ban South Dakota interests in China, she really steps in it big time.

    Climb into the Wayback Machine to January 2006. Oral Roberts graduate Republican Rep. Joel Dykstra introduced House Bill 1055 to allocate $200,000 to begin a trade mission in Communist Red China. I’m pretty sure China was at least as communist in 2006 as it is today, but that didn’t slow down the eager beaver Dykstra from spinning all the untold riches South Dakota investors could pocket if they would just spend a lot of time and effort procuring trade deals with the Home of Chairman Mao Tse Tung and his little red book!

    ================================
    Dykstra and 22 other Republican lawmakers introduced a measure in the 2006 legislative session that calls for the state Department of Tourism and State Development to contract for international trade representation in China. The purpose is to represent South Dakota companies and their products and to assist them in finding customers and suppliers.

    “I’ve made some contacts to try to determine what South Dakota could do and what other states do,” he said in an interview Friday morning at the Capitol. “I found several big states have free-standing, staffed trade offices. I didn’t see that as practical for us.”

    “The opportunity in China is so great, that is the place we should start,” he said. “Every day we wait is a missed opportunity.”
    Article by Bob Mercer, Jan. 14,2006 – Watertown Public Opinion. “State wants China in its future” https://www.thepublicopinion.com/story/news/local/2006/01/14/state-wants-china-in-its-future/45941143/
    ================================

    Fellow China trade eager beavers Rep. Larry Rhoden and Sen. Lee Schoenbeck were co-sponsors of the bill and cheered it along as it passed the House and Senate with two-thirds majorities, but hit the skids on the desk of Gov. Mike Rounds and his veto pen. The House rejected the motion to override.

    I remember Dykstra’s sales pitch. It was impressive. China was growing a middle class that soon enough would reach several hundred million hungry people. What an opportunity for South Dakota livestock, grain producers and all those manufacturers and processors!

    While Joel’s dream died, Rounds was already knee deep in Chinese investments, courtesy of the late Richard Benda and his accomplice Joop Bollen in the EB5 scandal. So, where did all those millions of Chinese investments in South Dakota actually wind up? No clues?

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