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Discount Domination: Dollar Stores are Thriving in America

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The retail landscape is in a constant state of flux.

E-commerce is indisputably disrupting almost every imaginable aspect of retail, creating what has been coined as the “retail apocalypse”. As a result, certain segments of the market have had well publicized meltdowns – electronics and apparel, in particular – and the U.S. now has far more retail floor space available than any other nation.

That said, there is one type of store that’s thriving in this unpredictable landscape – dollar stores. Today, we examine data from the Institute of Local Self-Reliance, which puts the scale of the United States’ dollar store boom into perspective.

dollar store nation

Escaping the Retail Apocalypse

The rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon has led to a relentless wave of closures for brick and mortar retailers. Department stores and consumer electronics are taking hard hits, yet a curious trend emerges through the cracks – dollar stores are multiplying like rabbits.

The persistent growth of dollar stores is the biggest retail trend in the past decade. Between 2007 and 2017, over 11,000 new dollar stores were opened; that’s roughly 93 new stores a month, or three per day. Dollar General, in particular, is reaping the rewards: the company has a market cap of over $30 billion.

dollar general stock

Compared to mammoth retailer Walmart, Dollar General is the little store that could. Despite reporting lower sales per square foot, Dollar General outperforms Walmart in 5-year gross profit margins.

StoreSales per square foot5-year gross profit marginsCost of a new store
Dollar General$18430.9%$250,000
Walmart$43225.1%$15,000,000

Sources: Bloomberg, E-Marketer

This whopping difference in launching a new location contributes to the fast and furious spread of dollar stores. Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which now owns Family Dollar) boast 30,000 stores between them, eclipsing the six biggest U.S. retailers combined. Their combined annual sales also rival Apple Stores, including iTunes.

The Dollar Store Strategy

What makes dollar stores so lucrative? In a nutshell, they’re willing to go where others won’t.

Dollar General focuses on rural areas, while Dollar Tree and Family Dollar are more prominent in urban and suburban areas. But they have one thing in common – all three chains target small towns in rural America, resulting in a high concentration per capita, especially in the South.

Wal-Mart’s 40 miles away and we can meet those people’s needs.

– David Perdue, Former CEO of Dollar General

Dollar General’s ambitious expansion into smaller towns has proven successful. Residents can find many everyday products at prices similar to those at Walmart, but without the longer drive to a Supercenter. Despite the 3,500 Walmart Supercenters spread out across the country, chances are, there’s a dollar store even closer.

dollar stores versus walmart

Dollar stores fill a need in cash-strapped communities, saving time and gas money during a trip to the store, and then offering an affordable and enticing products inside the store itself.

America’s Grocery Gap

The no-frills shopping experience is also a quintessential trait of dollar stores. Dollar stores focus on a limited selection of private label goods, selling basics in small quantities instead of bulk.

However, there’s also a dark underbelly to this trend. Dollar stores often enter areas with no grocery stores at all, called food deserts. In the absence of choice, dollar stores are welcomed with open arms – but the lack of fresh produce and abundance of processed, packaged foods leave much to be desired.

If you live in Whole Foods-land – not the dollar store world – it’s an invisible reality that they’re supplying a lot of the groceries.

— Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

On the other hand, when dollar stores compete with locally-owned grocery stores in the same area, sales in the latter can be cut by over 30% in some cases – taking an enormous toll on the community.

The ILSR report suggests that dollar stores may not always be a by-product of economic distress, but a cause of it. Regardless of what perspective you have on the spread of dollar stores, it’s clear they’re here to stay.

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Animation: The 20 Largest State Economies by GDP in the Last 50 Years

This animation shows how the largest state economies by GDP have changed over the last five decades of time, and what such a ranking looks like today.

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Animation: The 20 Largest State Economies by GDP

When it comes to understanding the size and scope of the $18 trillion U.S. economy, it’s sometimes easier to consider that it’s the sum of many parts.

Many states already have economies that are comparable to some of the world’s largest countries, giving you a sense of what they might be combined.

And while every state plays a role in the bigger picture, some states such as New York and California have an outsized impact on fueling the country’s overall economic engine.

The State of State Economies

Today’s animation comes to us from SavingSpot, and it covers the size of state economies by GDP going back all the way to 1963.

The video uses inflation-adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, showing how the ranking of top state economies has changed over time as different states have taken advantage of economic booms.

Let’s dive into the data to see how things have changed.

Going Back in Time

The earliest data in the animation comes from 1963, when New York led the pack with a $70.6 billion economy in inflation-adjusted terms.

State Economies by GDP, Inflation-Adjusted Chained $USD (1963)

RankState EconomyGDP, Billions of USD (1963)Share of U.S. Economy
🇺🇸 United States (Total)$607.0100.0%
#1New York$70.611.6%
#2California$67.811.2%
#3Illinois$39.56.5%
#4Pennsylvania$34.55.7%
#5Ohio$33.35.5%
#6Michigan$30.55.0%
#7Texas$29.34.8%
#8New Jersey$23.43.9%
#9Massachusetts$17.42.9%
#10Indiana$15.62.6%
#11Florida$14.72.4%
#12Missouri$13.62.2%
#13Wisconsin$12.72.1%
#14North Carolina$12.62.1%
#15Virginia$11.71.9%
#16Washington$11.21.8%
#17Minnesota$10.71.8%
#18Georgia$10.31.7%
#19Maryland$10.31.7%
#20Connecticut$9.91.6%
#21Louisiana$9.71.6%
#22Tennessee$9.11.5%
#23Kentucky$8.41.4%
#24Iowa$7.91.3%
#25Alabama$7.31.2%
#26Oklahoma$6.21.0%
#27Kansas$6.11.0%
#28Colorado$5.91.0%
#29Oregon$5.70.9%
#30District of Columbia$5.10.8%
#31South Carolina$5.10.8%
#32West Virginia$4.60.8%
#33Arizona$4.50.7%
#34Mississippi$4.40.7%
#35Nebraska$4.30.7%
#36Arkansas$3.80.6%
#37New Mexico$3.00.5%
#38Utah$3.00.5%
#39Rhode Island$2.70.4%
#40Maine$2.40.4%
#41Hawaii$2.40.4%
#42Montana$2.00.3%
#43Delaware$1.90.3%
#44Idaho$1.80.3%
#45Nevada$1.80.3%
#46New Hampshire$1.70.3%
#47North Dakota$1.60.3%
#48South Dakota$1.60.3%
#49Wyoming$1.40.2%
#50Alaska$1.10.2%
#51Vermont$1.00.2%

California ($67.8 billion), Illinois ($39.5 billion), Pennsylvania ($34.5 billion) and Ohio ($33.3 billion) round out the top five, and together they added up to 40.5% of the national GDP.

The Largest State Economies by GDP Today

Looking at the most recent data from 2017, you can see the ranking changes significantly:

State Economies by GDP, Inflation-Adjusted Chained $USD (2017)

RankState EconomyGDP, Billions of USD (2017)Share of U.S. Economy
🇺🇸 United States (Total)$18,051100%
#1California$2,57614.3%
#2Texas$1,6169.0%
#3New York$1,4147.8%
#4Florida$8834.9%
#5Illinois$7454.1%
#6Pennsylvania$7013.9%
#7Ohio$5913.3%
#8New Jersey$5473.0%
#9Georgia$5112.8%
#10Michigan$4592.5%
#11North Carolina$4842.7%
#12Virginia$4642.6%
#13Massachusetts$4902.7%
#14Washington$4812.7%
#15Maryland$3632.0%
#16Indiana$3211.8%
#17Arizona$2971.6%
#18Minnesota$3221.8%
#19Tennessee$3151.7%
#20Wisconsin$2921.6%
#21Colorado$3231.8%
#22Missouri$2761.5%
#23Connecticut$2391.3%
#24Louisiana$2271.3%
#25Alabama$1931.1%
#26South Carolina$1991.1%
#27Kentucky$1851.0%
#28Oregon$2081.2%
#29Oklahoma$1911.1%
#30Iowa$1690.9%
#31Nevada$1430.8%
#32Kansas$1480.8%
#33Utah$1500.8%
#34Arkansas$1140.6%
#35District of Columbia$1220.7%
#36Mississippi$1000.6%
#37Nebraska$1110.6%
#38New Mexico$910.5%
#39Hawaii$790.4%
#40West Virginia$710.4%
#41New Hampshire$740.4%
#42Delaware$640.4%
#43Idaho$670.4%
#44Maine$560.3%
#45Rhode Island$530.3%
#46Alaska$520.3%
#47Montana$440.2%
#48Wyoming$390.2%
#49South Dakota$450.3%
#50North Dakota$510.3%
#51Vermont$300.2%

California is the largest economy today – it has a state GDP of $2.6 trillion, which is comparable to the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Florida and Georgia are two states that did not crack the top 10 back in the 1960s, while Texas jumped up to become the second largest state economy. It’s actually not a coincidence that all of these states are in the southern half of the country, as air conditioning has played a surprisingly pivotal role in shaping modern America.

In fact, the share of the nation’s population living in the Sunbelt rose from 28% in 1950 to 40% in 2000, and this increase in population has coincided with economic growth in many of the states that used to be a sweaty mess.

A Final Look

Here is a final animated version of the top 10 largest states by GDP, also provided by SavingSpot:

Animation: The 20 Largest State Economies by GDP in the Last 50 Years

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Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money

Last year, the global banking industry cashed in an impressive $1.36 trillion in profits. Here’s where they made their money, and how it breaks down.

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Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money

Profits in banking have been steadily on the rise since the financial crisis.

Just last year, the global banking industry cashed in an impressive $1.36 trillion in after-tax profits ⁠— the highest total in the sector seen in the last 20 years.

What are the drivers behind revenue and profits in the financial services sector, and where do the biggest opportunities exist in the future?

Following the Money

Today’s infographic comes to us from McKinsey & Company, and it leverages proprietary insights from their Panorama database.

Using data stemming from more than 60 countries, we’ve broken down historical banking profits by region, while also visualizing key ratios that help demonstrate why specific countries are more profitable for the industry.

Finally, we’ve also looked at the particular geographic regions that may present the biggest opportunities in the future, and why they are relevant today.

Banking Profits, by Region

Before we look at what’s driving banking profits, let’s start with a breakdown of annual after-tax profits by region over time.

Banking Profit by Year and Region ($B)

 2009201020112012201320142015201620172018
Global ($B)$388$530$635$703$859$963$1,070$1,065$1,144$1,356
United States$19$118$176$263$268$263$291$275$270$403
China$95$135$174$225$255$278$278$270$301$333
Western Europe$78$34$21-$70$28$95$154$159$186$198
Rest of World$196$243$265$285$309$327$348$361$387$421

In 2018, the United States accounted for $403 billion of after-tax profits in the banking sector ⁠— however, China sits in a very close second place, raking in $333 billion.

What’s Under the Hood?

While there’s no doubt that financial services can be profitable in almost any corner of the globe, what is less obvious is where this profit actually comes from.

The truth is that banking can vary greatly depending on location ⁠— and what drives value for banks in one country may be completely different from what drives value in another.

Let’s look at data and ratios from four very different places to get a sense of how financial services markets can vary.

CountryRARC/GDPLoans Penetration/GDPMargins (RBRC/Total Loans)Risk Cost Margin
Global Average5.1%124%5.0%0.8%
United States5.4%121%5.0%0.4%
China6.6%147%6.0%1.4%
Singapore13.0%316%4.6%0.4%
Finland3.4%133%2.8%0.2%

1. RARC / GDP (Revenues After Risk Costs / GDP)
This ratio shows compares a country’s banking revenues to overall economic production, giving a sense of how important banking is to the economy. Using this, you can see that banking is far more important to Singapore’s economy than others in the table.

2. Loans Penetration / GDP
Loans penetration can be further broken up into retail loans and wholesale loans. The difference can be immediately seen when looking at data on China and the United States:

CountryRetail LoansWholesale LoansLoan Penetration (Total)
United States73%48%121%
China34%113%147%

In America, banks make loans primarily to the retail sector. In China, there’s a higher penetration on a wholesale basis — usually loans being made to corporations or other such entities.

3. Margins (Revenues Before Risk Costs / Total Loans)
Margins made on lending is one way for bankers to gauge the potential of a market, and as you can see above, margins in the United States and China are both at (or above) the global average. Meanwhile, for comparison, Finland has margins that are closer to half of the global average.

4. Risk Cost Margin (Risk Cost / Total Loans)
Not surprisingly, China still holds higher risk cost margins than the global average. On the flipside, established markets like Singapore, Finland, and the U.S. all have risk margins below the global average.

Future Opportunities in Banking

While this data is useful at breaking down existing markets, it can also help to give us a sense of future opportunities as well.

Here are some of the geographic markets that have the potential to grow into key financial services markets in the future:

  1. Sub-Saharan Africa
    Despite having 16x the population of South Africa, the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa still generates fewer banking profits. With lower loan penetration rates and RARC/GDP ratios, there is significant potential to be found throughout the continent.
  2. India and Indonesia
    Compared to similar economies in Asia, both India and Indonesia present an interesting banking opportunity because of their high margins and low loan penetration rates.
  3. China
    While China has a high overall loan penetration rate, the retail loan category still holds much potential given the country’s population and growing middle class.

A Changing Landscape in Banking

As banks shift focus to face new market challenges, the next chapter of banking may be even more interesting than the last.

Add in the high stakes around digital transformation, aging populations, and new service opportunities, and the distance between winners and losers could lengthen even more.

Where will the money in banking be in the future?

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