In the world of small-store discount retailers, it seems that charging less for retail items doesn’t necessarily translate to high-paying jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Company Wage Tracker, a whopping 92% of Dollar General employees make less than $15 per hour.
For Dollar General, EPI’s Company Wage Tracker revealed a shocking 92% of its employees surveyed made under $15 an hour, while its CEO pay is listed at $58.54 million. Fifty-seven percent of Dollar General workers make less than $12 per hour. The Goodlettsville, Tennessee-headquartered discount giant employs 119,904 workers and generates $33.75 billion.
Other dollar stores are not included in the Tracker but, to compare it to another major retail operation, 51% of Walmart’s employees make under $15. Despite having 1.39 million employees and earning a revenue of $556.93 billion, Walmart’s CEO pay sits at $34.30 million.
For its Company Wage Tracker, EPI partnered with The Shift Project to survey 20,933 hourly service-sector workers employed at 66 companies from all 50 states between March 2021 and November 2021. The average number of respondents from each company was 317.
The Tracker gathered statistics on how many workers a firm employs, how much these employees make per hour (split into salary bands), how much their CEOs earn and how much revenue their U.S. operations generate. CEO pay is the sum of salary and other compensation realized during the most recent year for which data are available and includes salaries and benefits and realized or vested stock options (not all forms of compensation are represented in the tracker, like unrealized stock options).
As of April 11, 2022, Dollar General operates 18,216 stores across 46 U.S. states in the continental United States and has firm plans to expand to Mexico. The company began in 1939 as a family-owned business called J.L. Turner and Son in Scottsville, Kentucky, changed the name to Dollar General Corporation in 1955 and went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1968.
Fortune 500 recognized Dollar General in 1999, and in 2020 it reached #112 on its annual list of the biggest corporations in the U.S. Dollar General has grown to become one of the most profitable stores in the rural United States with revenue reaching around $27 billion in 2019.
Its growth over the pandemic has been uniquely remarkable. EPI listed its revenue at over $58 billion in its tracker for 2021, and store numbers have expanded by tens of thousands over the past two years. It is the biggest and most popular “dollar store” in the country.
The shocking disparity between high CEO earnings and hourly wages at Dollar General is part of a bigger problem and economic trend associated with dollar stores in general. According to a study done by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, dollar stores tend to create fewer and lower wage jobs than independent grocery stores. The report claimed that dollar stores stifle local competition, thereby allegedly hurting the communities they are serving.
Dollar stores tend to target struggling urban neighborhoods and small towns, where full-service grocery stores are not found, not unlike how Walmart conquered America. They offer no fresh vegetables, fruits or meats, yet they feed more Americans than Whole Foods and its franchises are multiplying rapidly. There are now more dollar stores than Walmart and McDonald’s locations combined.