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Family Dollar decides to leave; mad dash for bargains begins

Staff writer

Shoppers jammed Family Dollar / Dollar Tree stores Tuesday in Marion and Peabody, searching for bargains of up to 50% off after the chain announced last week that it would close the stores along with one in Herington.

The stores, scheduled to close within the next four weeks, are among 1,000 being closed nationwide. A complete list of stores is not yet available, however. Announcement is in the wake of a fourth-quarter corporate loss of $1.71 billion.

The Marion store opened just 1½ years ago after a lengthy dispute over its location. The Peabody store opened three years ago.

Joshua Catlin, who works at the Marion store, said a regional manager told store employees last Wednesday that several stores in the region would close.

Marion’s store had been the best performing in the group, Catlin said.

Since the announcement, hours at the Marion store have changed to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and all items except tobacco, alcohol, and gift cards are 50% off.

The store was swamped with shoppers this week. Some had as many as five overloaded carts of merchandise.

Margo Yates, Marion’s community enrichment director, told city council members Monday that she had gone to the store to try to reach a district manager but had to obtain the manager’s contact information from a sign in a restroom.

Yates said she had tried emailing the corporation but heard from nobody.

Mayor Mike Powers said he was “very disappointed” to hear about the closure.

“I want the city to try to reach out to the people who own the building, to find out who’s going to end up holding the building and see if we can work together to get someone in there that Marion needs.”

The building is not owned by the retail chain. According to appraisal records, the Marion store is owned by MDC Coast 20 LLC, which lists its headquarters as being in the San Diego offices of Realty Income Corp., a $58 billion company led by investment banker Sumit Roy. The company invests in retail locations such as those in Marion.

Fines for health and safety standards also took a bite out of the retail chain’s 2023 profits.

The company agreed Aug. 17 to pay $1.35 million in penalties to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to settle alleged safety violations.

On Feb. 26, it entered a plea agreement with the Department of Justice to pay $41.675 million in fines and forfeitures over a now-closed, rat-infested warehouse in Arkansas.

The Justice Department called it “the largest-ever monetary criminal penalty in a food-safety case.”

News of the closure spread fast and was accompanied by skepticism about the decision to locate Marion and Peabody stores so close to rival Dollar General locations. The two chains have long feuded and attempted to buy each other out.

One woman wrote on social media: “I was one of the first ones to ask why we needed a Dollar Tree, but dang I’m going to miss not having it here! I haven’t missed Dollar General at all! I don’t know what we can do to save it, but we need to at least try!”

Others posted phone numbers shoppers could call to try to persuade the chain to keep its local stores open, but another woman posted: “People need to quit calling the number that is circulating around because that’s just the distribution center.”

She urged customers to fill out an online feedback form at familydollar.com but added: “Not sure if that’ll make a difference but it doesn’t hurt to try.”

Yates also suggested that Marion residents express their opinions on the feedback form.

A Herington-related post, apparently from a store employee, said:

“I wanted to tell the people of Herington and surrounding areas thank you so much for being our loyal customers for the last almost three years.

“We gave it our all and just couldn’t make what we needed to make the cut. I hope you have always had a pleasant experience while in our store. We did our best to provide you a clean, tidy and well-stocked store to shop in. We will be in business for the next four weeks and hope we will see all of you before we have to say goodbye.”

The location of Marion’s store on N. Roosevelt St. was a source of consternation and argument after the city initially tried to locate the store in an area of its industrial park reserved for drainage and as a buffer for adjoining residential areas.

The attempt met with backlash from neighbors, planning commission members, and community members. A different location, approximately a block north on Roosevelt St., eventually was selected instead.

Marion paid $109,100 to install a section of street for the new store.

Unlike Dollar General, which tends to have stores in rural areas, most Family Dollar / Dollar Tree stores are in cities. The chain caters to low-income customers.

Of the 1,000 stores closing, 600 will close in the first half of this year, and 400 more will close over several years as leases expire.

Last modified March 20, 2024

 

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