Are 30 ‘dollar stores’ too many? Councilman: Maybe

Some members of the Lafayette City-Parish Council feel there might be an overabundance of so-called “dollar stores” here.

Two of the biggest players in that market are Dollar General and Family Dollar, and Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said the stores appear to be popping up far too often in his north Lafayette district.

“I certainly have no issue with the stores themselves, just how many,” Boudreaux said, noting that he knows of areas of the city where a Dollar General and Family Dollar sit nearly side by side.

His concerns cut to the heart of the business model for such stores, which rely on multiple small locations to allow them to be close to their customers.

“A big part of our value proposition is convenience,” Dollar General spokesman Dan MacDonald said. “We are your neighborhood general store.”

He said Dollar General has 566 stores in Louisiana and more than 11,000 stories nationwide.

There are 30 Dollar General and Family Dollar stores in Lafayette Parish, according to figures from the city-parish Planning, Zoning and Codes Department.

City-parish staff researched the locations at the request of Boudreaux.

“The number that came back was a little shocker,” he said.

Boudreaux said that having too many of the dollar stores in one area could close the door for other businesses in a neighborhood because the discount stores might grab too much of the available market for groceries, clothing, toys, electronics and household goods.

“It limits other potentials. It blocks other opportunities,” Boudreaux said.

MacDonald said those issues should be settled by consumers.

“It seems the answer to that question is to let the market decide,” he said. “… We welcome the competition. We think it makes us better.”

Boudreaux said he is still exploring what, if anything, should be done about his concerns, but he did not rule out proposing some form of a moratorium on dollar stores if it is legally possible.

He said he is still gathering information about the location and density of the stores to gauge just how far each location is from the others.

“We will take it slowly, look at it,” Boudreaux said.

Even without a moratorium or other regulations, the council has the power to block dollar stores if they need a zoning change from city-parish government.

That happened Nov. 19 when the council considered a request to change the zoning of a site on University Avenue near Couret Drive from residential to business to allow a Dollar General to locate there.

The council voted unanimously against the zoning change.

Councilman Brandon Shelvin, who represents the area, argued at the meeting that he felt there were simply too many dollar stores already open in the area.

“I feel there is enough. The residents feel there is enough of that,” he said.

Shelvin said there were at least five Dollar General and Family Dollar stores within 1 mile of the North University Avenue location.

Shelvin also voted a few years ago to block a zoning change needed for a Dollar General that was planned near an existing Family Dollar on Willow Street.

MacDonald said Dollar General has faced opposition in certain areas of the country, generally where the chain stores are seen as a possible threat to the character of a historic town.

But he said the company does not believe the stores detract from quaintness and that small towns have long been a major market for the company.