Canada ‘08: A Canadian Institution (3) The Dollar Store

From inauspicious beginnings ten years ago in 1998, The first Dollar Store opened in Merrit, British Columbia followed very shortly afterwards by a similar outlet in Kelowna in the same province. Those two early stores spawned a huge chain of successful stores Canada-wide, now numbering over 170 franchises.

Of course we know that the concept of an ultra-low-price retail store is not just the preserve of Canada. Indeed in the UK we have our Pound Shops, but there just seems something so erm…intrinsically Canadian about these stores.

I’m actually a real sucker for these places and I’m not entirely sure why. I seldom spend much (well I guess that’s the general idea) or anything at all in them but I still can’t resist them – I can’t walk past one. I guess I just take a feeling that I might well be missing out on a great deal on something I really need. Dollar Stores are like that – all the stuff inside them is merchandise that you feel you can’t possible leave without and well, it’s a only a dollar (or two) anyway so you may as well buy it!

How can you really describe the goods on display in a Dollar Store? Well here’s an effort from their official website:

“a huge range of the best quality, latest trends and fads. This includes cards, gift bags, wraps, candles, candle holders, giftware, sunglasses, postcards, cleaning supplies, balloons, party supplies, paper products, crafts, house wares, hardware, picture frames, sewing supplies, bath products, cosmetics, shoelaces, batteries, hair accessories, toys, candy, pop, spices, etc.”

That’s actually only just the beginning. Once you’re through those doors you’re snared. It’s coming up to Trick or Treat season now and the Dollar Stores are featuring lots of horror ‘equipment’ and dressing-up outfits. I slid surreptitiously into a store in the neighbouring town of Summerland yesterday and was immediately grabbed (not literally) by a set of glowing vampire teeth that looked a perfect fit. Witches hats too were flying off the shelves at $1.75 and $2 depending on the size of your head. Bargain. Filing around the packed shelves I spotted a high-powered water pistol – ideal for keeping those troublesome ducks, and anything much else really, off your back lawn and a battery-powered pencil sharpener that would sharpen two pencils simultaneously. ‘This is the biting edge of Dollar Store technology’ I murmured to myself in a self-satisfied way.

The staff are wonderful too. You can often catch up with whose husband has run away with whose wife in the neighbourhood because it’s being broadcast around the store quite loudly and uninhibitedly by two ladies charged with manning the ever-turning tills as they serve an eager Canadian public.

One day this week I had taken a walk to a local second-hand book store in the area. One the way I dropped in at the Dollar Store where my partner’s dad came across me as I furtively rooted around the aisles for bargain Montreal Canadiens notepaper or some other extremely important purchase. ‘I knew where to find you’ quoth he without breaking stride. This should be a warning to me as my suitcase gathers more and more ‘useful’ low-priced stuff as the drip, drip effect of my Dollar Store spending stiffens the Canadian economy.

Now, where are those glowing vampire teeth…

7 thoughts on “Canada ‘08: A Canadian Institution (3) The Dollar Store”

  1. Items have become so expensive now that there would probably not be a single item that one could buy for under a dollar.

    I do like the Reject Shop which sells good products but the packaging may have been damaged or other small little mistakes but the actual items are perfectly OK.

    With the financial crisis I guess I will be shopping there more;).

    I have written a piece on the Wall Street fiasco!

    Peace to you:) & God bless.


  2. Thanks Marie

    Thankfully there are plenty of items in these stores here for just a dollar! There is even one store that has no pricing on any goods as everything is exactly a dollar. 🙂

    I’m not sure I could live on glowing Dracula teeth, Maple Leaf notepaper and cheap razor blades though!

    God bless

  3. I finally found all your stories..and enjoying them so much..Well done Stu..Write a book…As for the dollar store..Who can live without browsing through..and we do have one of those really dollar dollar stores..Really great bargans..Cheers, boots.

  4. Hi and thanks Boots!

    My spiritual home is now the Dollar Store! (Along with Tim Hortons of course!)

    I will be in touch right as soon as I get my breath back here!

    Stu xx

  5. Oh, how I can relate! I guess dollar store atmosphere is a global similiarity.

    I work at a dollar store in Pennsylvania, US, and it’s very similar. We have some really crazy things, and people come to the dollar store just to talk to the staff, other customers, etc.

    Thanks for the excellent blog!

  6. Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

    That’s interesting to hear. I’m now trying imagine the craziest thing you might have in the store!

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