Making a Buck: How Do Dollar Stores Make Any Money?

Justin Sullivan/iStock via Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/iStock via Getty Images

While the prices of everything from lattes to movie theater tickets have inflated in recent years, dollar stores are somehow still around. It's true that not every item sold by chains like Dollar General and Dollar Tree costs a dollar, but there are enough of them on the shelves to attract customers looking for good deals. That raises the question—if every other retailer seems to be raising prices, how do dollar stores keep making money?

The truth is that the cheap deals dollar stores advertise aren't always as generous as they seem. As How Stuff Works explains, many of the $1 products sold at these chains are actually less of a bargain than the more expensive—and larger—versions sold at grocery stores. A $1 16-oz bottle of milk at the dollar store, for instance, is being sold for more than $.06 an ounce. The average U.S. price for milk in December 2018 was $3.27 per gallon [PDF], or less than $.03 an ounce.

These tricks are even harder to spot with products like aluminum foil, which can be sold in 15-foot rolls for $1 in dollar stores and 75-foot rolls for $4 in big-box chains, but come in similarly sized boxes. By sizing-down products and using $1 price tags to apply the illusion of value to everything in their inventory, dollar stores are able to turn a profit that can be higher than stores like Walmart.

Of course, there are dollar store customers who know that spending a little more money for larger quantities will get them better value in the long run. But this isn't feasible for everyone; when shoppers only have enough money to get them through the week, or even the day, dollar stores are a tempting option.

That brings up another strategy these companies use to stay in business: targeting low-income communities. According to Mashed, Dollar General intentionally sets up shop in neighborhoods where quick access to cheap, shelf-stable food is not just a convenience, but a necessity. Many of these communities are considered "food deserts," or places that are isolated from supermarkets and other stores that sell fresh, nutritious food. In some cases, dollar stores help create food deserts by drawing customers away from local grocery stores and independent businesses until they're the only game in town. Some cities have even begun passing laws to limit the expansion of Dollar General and Dollar Tree to prevent them from becoming the primary food source for low-income families.

Even with tighter regulations, the retail strategy dollar stores have perfected will likely keep them a fixture of strip malls for years to come. Here are some more behind-the-scenes facts to demystify your dollar store experience.

[h/t How Stuff Works]

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Happy Canada Day! What Exactly Is Canada Day?

bluejayphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus
bluejayphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Happy Canada Day! On July 1, 1867, the nation was officially born when the Constitution Act joined three provinces into one country: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which then split into Ontario and Quebec. However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982.

The holiday called Dominion Day was officially established in 1879, but it wasn't observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens. Dominion Day started to catch on when the 50th anniversary of the confederation rolled around in 1917. In 1946, a bill was put forth to rename Dominion Day, but arguments in the House of Commons over what to call the holiday stalled the bill.

The 100th anniversary of the nation's official creation in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism, and Dominion Day celebrations really began to take off. Although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (or Fête du Canada), the new name wasn't formally adopted until October of 1982.

How to celebrate Canada Day

There are many ways to celebrate Canada Day. First: What's a patriotic celebration without a parade? Typically, parades are held in cities, towns, and villages all over Canada (though many of this year's event will be virtual, due to the coronavirus pandemic). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have an established group called the RCMP Musical Ride. These 32 officers, who are rotated after three years' service, perform equestrian drills for the public throughout Canada.

Other Canada Day traditions that are gaining footholds are picnics, festivals, sporting events, and fireworks.

Many Canada Day events are planned all over the country, including Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Victoria (though, again, 2020 may look a bit different).

If you want to celebrate at home, why not belt out your own rendition of "O Canada"? You can find the lyrics here. And hear the French version as well.

This story has been updated for 2020.