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A Dollar Tree in California. Photo: Lenny Ignelzi / AP

Bloomberg looked at the rise of dollar stores across rural America, which are replacing the mom-and-pop grocery stores of old and entering communities where big-box retailers like Walmart don't see an opportunity for profit.

Why it matters: The biggest dollar store chains like Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Family Dollar all tend to operate in poorer, older, less-educated towns where residents are more likely to receive some sort of federal assistance. Their stores often are one of the only food options for rural residents who would otherwise have to travel miles to a supermarket.

Dollar General is implementing a $22 billion plan to open 1,000 new stores in poor, rural communities, across the U.S., calling the firm's yellow-and-black logo "the small-town corollary to Starbucks' two-tailed green mermaid."

  • Why it matters: Dollar General and Dollar Tree have more than 27,000 locations between the two of them, more than all the locations of CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid combined, and nearly three times the number of such stores open in 2007. Dollar General's success is attributable in part to its focus on towns too small for Walmart, where it sells staple items, in small quantities, at rock-bottom prices.
  • The dollar model's dark side: It's no coincidence that dollar stores have thrived in the wake of the recession, as income inequality has soared. As one analyst told Bloomberg, ""Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America. It's based on the concept that the jobs went away, and the jobs are never coming back, and that things aren't going to get better in any of these places."
  • What's next: The Internet might be the next big hope for rural food deserts as there's currently a federal pilot program to allow food assistance recipients to order their groceries online. Companies like Amazon and Walmart have signed up as suppliers, allowing them to avoid the overhead to setting up shop in a rural town.

Go deeper

Kate Marino, author of Markets
27 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
57 mins ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Small businesses see hiring as No. 1 worry

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Almost every small business owner in a Goldman Sachs survey is having trouble hiring — and two-thirds think the federal government has done too little to ease their hiring, supply-chain and inflation worries.

Why it matters: The Goldman Sachs research gives a vivid window into the continuing headwinds and hardship for entrepreneurs.