Sunday, September 19, 2021

Pop(Shelf) Goes The Dollar General

Publix #124 / Dollar General Market + Popshelf #9859
239 Crockett Boulevard, Merritt Island, FL - Merritt Crossings

     Casually roaming around Merritt Island on my day off, I had to make a quick pit stop to drop off something at the post office, which is located right behind this plaza on Crockett Boulevard. After turning onto Crockett from Courtenay Parkway, I happened to glance over at the Dollar General Market and noticed it had new signage on the front. While new signage is one thing, what really caught my attention was that in addition to the DG Market sign, a sign for "Popshelf" had gone up as well. For those of you who aren't familiar, Popshelf is a new line of stores launched by Dollar General in October 2020 (which I'll explain in more detail in just a moment). Seeing Popshelf in person for the first time, I was quite intrigued, so after taking care of things at the post office, I had to pull in here to check the place out...

     While most of us are familiar with what Dollar General is (and how ubiquitous their stores are), Popshelf is still a bit rare, as the concept is just now nearing its first full year in business. Dollar General created Popshelf to be a more fun and upscale version of a dollar store, with a focus on home goods and having a strong appeal to middle-income suburban women. So in the words of Dollar General on what exactly Popshelf is: "This new store [Popshelf] aims to engage customers with a fun, affordable and stress-free shopping experience where they can find on-trend seasonal and home décor, health and beauty must-haves, home cleaning supplies, party goods, entertaining needs and much more— with approximately 95 percent of items priced at $5 or less!" I think Dollar General summarized what Popshelf is quite well in that statement, although in the words of AFB, I would describe Popshelf as being "Five Below's mother". Popshelf stores give off the same vibe as Five Below and follow a similar pricing model,  however Five Below focuses on appealing to kids and teenagers, while Popshelf is going after adults.

     Popshelf was developed as its own stand alone concept, so there are Popshelf stores out there that run solely on their own, and more stand-alone Popshelf stores are planned to open nationwide in the coming years. However, in August 2021, Dollar General announced that the company would start putting Popshelf "stores-within-a-store" inside select Dollar General Market locations. Dollar General Market is the company's largest store prototype, as these stores run full grocery departments in addition to carrying all the standard Dollar General merchandise. Considering their size, Dollar General was able to squeeze a Popshelf into about half the existing Dollar General Market space, infilling the remainder of the salesfloor with the full grocery department and items a normal Popshelf store wouldn't carry. That description might make this concept sound strange at first, but once we head inside, you'll see the concept actually works well.

     While the store's remodel was 100% complete at the time of my visit, there were still signs placed next to the entrance mentioning the remodel. While the remodel wasn't super intensive (as the salesfloor space remained the same size, and heavy construction was limited), Dollar General put a lot more effort into this remodel than I'd have thought. All the aisles on the salesfloor were rearranged, new decor was added, and some new flooring was installed around the perimeter of the Popshelf department. The remodel made this place look really nice, and I'd have to say this is the nicest Dollar General I've been to now.

     Stepping inside, we enter into the grocery department. The grocery department occupies the right side of the building, the same as it had prior to the remodel. As we'll see in a little bit, the entire center salesfloor behind me was converted into the new Popshelf store-within-a-store, the remaining Dollar General merchandise lining the far left side of the building beyond Popshelf.

     The produce department here actually looks quite classy with its new woodgrain decor and accents (wow, I never imagined I'd be using the word "classy" in a post about Dollar General!) We can see the produce department's prior decor here, from my original tour of this store posted to flickr a long time ago (but now resides in this MFR post). The prior produce decor looked pretty decent for something created by Dollar General (whose traditional stores don't have much decor to begin with), although the new decor definitely has a more upscale vibe than the prior look.

     From produce, here's a look toward the store's front end, which we'll see more of toward the end of this post.

     From produce, here's a look at the store's refrigerated and frozen food cases, which line the right side wall. The coolers also wrap around to the back wall, where the dairy department is located.

     New paint and signage came along with the remodel, continuing the gray and woodgrain theming we saw in the produce department. The new decor is much more sedate than its predecessor, but not so sparse that it looks super cheap. The fact the signs are 3-D and mounted onto the faux woodgrain background helps give the new look some substance.

     Beer and wine was moved into aisles 1 and 2 as part of the remodel, the new cooler to my left installed for the chilled beer and sodas.

     Dollar General Market's old grocery aisle setup had a much stronger warehouse/Save-A-Lot vibe, but with some rearranging and new signage, feel much classier now.

     At aisle 4 on the grocery side of the store, the grocery aisles switch from being parallel with the store's front wall to perpendicular. This is a big change from the old layout, where the grocery aisles ran parallel to the front wall all the way to the back of the store. Also from this vantage point, we get our first glimpse at Popshelf, which we'll be touring in more detail momentarily...

     As you'd expect from Dollar General, the "deli" department is nothing more than a fancy name for the store's pre-packaged meat selection. This photo looks into the store's back right corner, where dairy is also located.

     The main aisle seen here separates the grocery department from Popshelf, as seen looking toward the front of the store. That soda pallet actually blocks most of our view of the new Popshelf department, so therefore, what Popshelf looks like will have to wait until the next photo:

     And there you have it: Popshelf. In a testament to how successful Dollar General expects Popshelf to be, half of this store's salesfloor went to the new concept, with all the "normal" Dollar General merchandise pushed to the two far sides of the building. In order to give Popshelf so much floor space, Popshelf's core departments (housewares and other home items, toys, office & crafts, seasonal, and party supplies) essentially replaced the standard Dollar General versions of those same departments, allowing this store to offer Popshelf, yet still provide Dollar General's complete merchandise selection.

     As you probably noticed in the previous photo, the Popshelf section of the store has its own vibe, with a unique layout and lower-than-normal shelving. Popshelf also has its own decor on the back wall, and fancier displays than your typical Dollar General. The photo above shows some of the fancier merchandising done for Popshelf, showing off some of the newly-arrived fall decor to shoppers entering the store.

     Here's some more examples of the different tables and shelves used by Popshelf. To further Dollar General's quest to give Popshelf its own feel within this larger Dollar General store, a faux-wood flooring was installed around the perimeter of Popshelf's space, designating its bounds.

     The back wall showcases a small glimpse of Popshelf's decor, which uses a predominantly purple and white color scheme. Unfortunately, since only a small portion of the Popshelf space abuts a wall, the only three Popshelf departments got signage of their own: crafts, party, and home.

     While there were still traditional Dollar General Market baskets to use by the front doors, the Popshelf department got its own stacks of custom branded baskets, some of which can be seen here. I just wonder how much longer it will be before one of the store's normal DG Market baskets ends up getting discarded in this stack?

     From the front of the Popshelf department, here's a look toward the back of the building and the small section of Popshelf decor. Popshelf's area is filled with a lot of short aisles than run in all kinds of crazy directions, so it's a bit maze-like in here (which I believe was done to add to Popshelf's treasure hunt concept, as when wandering through the maze, you never know what you'll find).

     Here's another look across the Popshelf department, looking into the department's seasonal and home goods zones. Before Popshelf was installed, the center of the store just had long traditional aisles filling up this space, like this one. Removing all those tall shelves makes the store feel bigger, as you don't have all the shelves blocking your view across the store. 

     Toward the back of the Popshelf department are toys and party supplies, with crafts and office supplies along the back wall.

     Here's our overview of Popshelf's back wall, which prior to the remodel, was home to much-less-classy-looking warehouse steel shelves holding paper products (which I don't have a comparison photo of, as it appears my original tour of this store was a bit light on photos - I think I was more into hunting down Publix relics during that photo blitz than actually photographing a DG Market back then).

     What remained of Dollar General's paper department got condensed into the store's back left corner, situated upon normal shelves instead of the big warehouse counterparts from before. Also note the department signs on this side of the store (the "general merchandise" side, I guess you can call it), lacks the wood-grain back panels from the store's grocery side.

     Turning to the left, here's a look down the aisle that separates Popshelf from the general merchandise aisles. So essentially, whatever a typical Popshelf store wouldn't carry (such as clothes, hardware/automotive, and baby products, for example) is located to my right.

     From the left side wall, here's a look toward the front of the building.

     Thanks to Popshelf's low shelves, a photo across the store like this was made possible. Before the remodel, the results weren't as great.

     The general merchandise side of the store had an entire aisle dedicated to $1 Deals, in which I found this interesting product. I always find it intriguing going to various closeout/dollar stores and seeing well known brands putting their name on products completely unrelated to what they usually sell - for example, the Hostess Wax Paper seen here (which was in addition to the Hostess Plastic Wrap on the shelf above). I guess if you can't finish your Twinkie, this is the perfect stuff to wrap it in for later.

     Moving further toward the front of the store, Health and Beauty products occupy the front left corner, which was previously home to a large clothing department. Clothing was a department that got cut in size quite a bit here following the remodel, with that department now occupying a single standard aisle of mostly socks and underwear that we saw two photos back.

     Officially, the new beauty department falls under Popshelf, as this new setup uses Popshelf's color scheme, lower shelving, and branding. To add to Popshelf's more "upscale" image, some round pendant lights were added over the beauty section, making it stand out from the rest of the store. Two images down you can see the new pendant lights from a more drawn back perspective, and I think the more upscale look these lights give off will be more apparent then.

     Looking across the front of the store, we find ourselves taking a look at the front end. The front end couldn't escape the remodel either, and was reconfigured to add a bank of 4 self-checkout lanes at the far end by the doors, with four regular lanes stationed next to those.

     Here's one last look at the salesfloor, looking back toward the beauty department (which is easily identifiable from the sight of those new lights).

     While Dollar General has been using self-checkouts for a while, per this article, this was my first time ever seeing self-checkouts in person at Dollar General. The self-checkouts were laid out nicely here, but considering how cramped the front ends are at most standard Dollar General stores, I can only imagine how these things are getting shoved in elsewhere.

     So there you have it folks - our first look at a Popshelf store. While this particular Popshelf was integrated into an existing Dollar General Market, a standalone Popshelf location offers exactly what we just saw in its little department here. The only difference with the standalone Popshelf stores is those have a small grocery/cleaning supply section in addition to everything else, but otherwise hold at roughly the same size as a standard Dollar General. I think Popshelf is an interesting concept, and I think it will succeed. Five Below has become a national chain following a similar idea to Popshelf, and by tweaking the target demographic, Dollar General has created something entirely new. After seeing it in person, Popshelf also blends in well with the DG Market stores. By adding Popshelf's merchandise and vibe to a Dollar General Market, it creates something that looks almost like a less-refined version of a modern Target store (wow, now I'm comparing Dollar General to Target - what has this world come to?!) Dollar General is definitely upping the bar, and finding ways to appeal to more shoppers is always a big plus in the business world.

     Currently, Popshelf only has around 20 stand alone stores operating in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina, although Dollar General's ultimate goal is to open hundreds of Popshelf stores nationwide in the coming years. More Dollar General Market + Popshelf conversions (as they're officially called) are expected to happen as well, in addition to the growth of the stand alone operation. Dollar General expects to have 25 of these combo stores complete by the end of 2021, Merritt Island having been one of those chosen. As of the publication of this post, in addition to Merritt Island, the only other Popshelf open in any form in Florida appears to be another combo store in Lakeland, although I'm sure we'll be seeing more of Popshelf before long, as I'm sure Dollar General wants to "pop" up more of these stores soon!

     It's always intriguing to see a new retail chain appear, as it doesn't seem like you see too may new ones popping up anymore. Hopefully Dollar General continues to have success with Popshelf, as I think Popshelf fills a niche no one has ever tried to capture before. All that being said, I really don't have much more to add, so I hope everyone liked this little preview of Dollar General's new chain, and maybe experience one yourself down the road. 

So until the next post,



  1. This is an interesting look at a retailer that is oddly absent in my part of Houston. I'm not talking about DG Market, which is nowhere near Houston, but Dollar General in general (no pun intended, lol). DG came to this area in the late 1990s if I'm remembering correctly, but then they left a few years later and never really did come back. DG still has a strong presence in other parts of Houston so it's strange that they've decided to abandon my area. It should be noted that Family Dollar does have a large presence in this area, and in Houston in general, so it's not like we're completely devoid of these types of stores.

    But, yeah, I have not been to a Dollar General since around 2000 due to their lack of stores in my area. Certainly I could go to one when I'm in other parts of Houston, but Dollar General never seemed like all that appealing of a store even 20 years ago. The photos and stories of them on the Internet in modern times, both by retail enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts, are not that promising.

    That said, this Dollar Generalix looks pretty nice actually. I'm totally not familiar with DG Markets so it's interesting to see what they're all about. I see they have Target's bad habit of charging a per product price for bananas instead of charging by the pound! The Target similarities are deeper than you even thought...unfortunately so in this case!

    Real floors, a drop ceiling, sufficient lighting, wow! This is not a bad effort. I must say that with the Popshelf stuff, this store actually gives me more of a Big Lots vibe than Target, but I can certainly see why you'd compare it to Target. I think the format has a chance for success. People want things like cosmetics, but if they can get it at a discount, that might give Popshelf a niche.

    While this is not a closeout store, I'm sure shoppers will compare it to Ollie's. Houston's first Ollie's just opened this past week in an old Target in my area that hasn't been a Target since 2006. This old Target's rise from the dead (actually, it moved in 2006, it didn't completely die) is as much of the story as Ollie's coming here. Anyway, keep an eye out on HHR for an update about the Ollie's. I know Mike visited the store and has something planned on the blog about it this week. I know one of the oddities is that the Houston Ollie's has some Kmart carts. That's not unprecedented for Ollie's, but we have not had Kmart carts around here since 2003!

    So, yeah, Popshelf will have to compete with the Ollie's of the world and also dollar stores for things like party supplies, but if their pricing and displays are effective, they might have a nice niche for themselves. I wouldn't expect to see anything like this in Houston anytime soon, but I'm just glad we have Ollie's and Big Lots, lol.

    1. I’m surprised Dollar General is absent from your part of Houston (and has never returned in the modern day), especially with how many stores DG has all over the place, and how they seem to pop up everywhere. Even though DG has a decent presence near me, I only go there on occasion (as Dollar Tree is my most frequented of the dollar store brands). DG isn’t anything special (at least in terms of store design or décor), but they serve a purpose. The newly remodeled DG Market + Popshelf is actually quite interesting in terms of design (at least for DG), and I actually liked the concept.

      I made the Target connection because the displays and fixtures in the Popshelf area reminded me a lot of similar ones in the recently remodeled Target stores (although thinking about it now, Big Lots has been doing some similar merchandising with their recent addition of “The Lot” department). DG Market (like P-Fresh Target stores) doesn’t have registers with scales (and that’s always been the case – even before the recent remodel), so that’s why all the produce was being sold individually. DG’s produce was actually pretty pricey too outside of the bananas (as I was looking at it while I was here) – Aldi across the street really beats DG on produce pricing, although the dry groceries were priced quite well.

      Popshelf gives off a much classier vibe than Ollie’s, although the “treasure hunt” format Popshelf advertises is more in line with Ollie’s or other closeout stores. I hope you get a chance to visit your new local Ollie’s soon – it’s a fun store to poke around in, and you can’t go wrong with the overuse of puns on the interior signage :) . I have a number of Ollie’s stores photographed myself (including the one not too far from here on Merritt Island), but I’ve yet to upload any of my Ollie’s photos. I need to get around to some of those on MFR eventually! With all the recent store closures from various chains, Ollie’s must be getting some good deals on carts and throwing them all in a warehouse to ship out to the new stores. The Merritt Island Ollie’s started out with old Toys R Us carts, but recently added in some Kmart ones as well. With Kmart having left Houston so long ago, I’m sure those carts will throw a lot of people off! I’m sure Houston will get a Popshelf before long too, considering DG has plans to eventually roll these stores out nationwide.

  2. This is actually a neat concept! I did get the chance to use Self-Checkout at Dollar General #14096 in Hawthorne. All they did was incorporate a Self Checkout machine at what was previously a regular checkout counter. Their machines actually work smoothly, but like you were saying, it's a cramped area to use Self Checkout.

    That's funny too the you saw that strange Hostess branding on Wax paper.
    I saw Hostess Ding Dong brand tin foil at my neighborhood CVS. I can understand a tin foil connection (years ago Hostess Ding Dong cakes were wrapped in tin foil rather than plastic air-filled packaging like they are today). Its still a strange combination though.

    When I first saw your intro photo on flickr, I had thought the previous tenant of this building was either a Publix or Food Lion (was leaning more toward Publix).

    1. I actually bought a little knickknack from the Popshelf section when I was here, and I decided to give the new self-checkouts a try. The system worked smoothly for me, but the other two people using self-checkout at the time kept having to call the attendant over to help them for one reason or another. Thanks for explaining how self-checkout is incorporated into the regular stores as well.

      I didn’t realize the Hostess branded food wrap was expanding beyond the dollar store closeout piles – certainly a strange move!

  3. Cool post! It's exciting to see what Popshelf is all about. I'd heard about the concept, but hadn't realized it had extended all the way to Florida just yet (even if it's only in two locations there so far!). I also didn't realize Dollar General was combining the concept within existing DG Market stores. That's definitely a smart way to expand it more rapidly and gain more exposure than relying exclusively on standalone stores.

    I'm totally with you on thinking that the concept is basically just another Five Below, but I actually didn't realize (wow, I'm using that phrase a lot!) that it was intended for adults and not for the same younger audience that Five Below currently is. That's pretty interesting, and like you said, a good idea, although I will say that the décor and colors and all that do seem to look a little younger, at least to me. But perhaps that's more because they want to make the Five Below connection a little more obvious, who knows.

    Dollar General actually seems to have been doing a lot of experimentation lately, as in addition to this Popshelf concept, they've also got DGX, which I want to say is still fairly new of a concept. They just opened one up in downtown Memphis recently. I haven't been, but from the video footage I saw, it looks much classier than a normal Dollar General on the inside, again with its own custom branding like the Popshelf décor we see here. I agree with you -- how crazy is it that we're now describing Dollar General as classy?! It's not as if they need more help in taking over the world (as they already have enough just plain Dollar General stores out there, as that meme you linked to attests!), but I can't lie and say that these new concepts aren't exciting to see; like you said, new retailers (or at least, store concepts, in this case) on a national level just don't seem that common anymore.

    I've been to a couple of Fred's to Dollar General conversions so far, and know of a few others which I haven't yet been to, also. The good comparison I can make between those and this DG Market/Popshelf combo is that the décor is likewise a step up from Dollar General's prior look. Not that I've been in very many Dollar Generals, but I can imagine the décor never was that great. However, it seems lots of the locations I've been in in recent years -- including not only these Fred's conversions, but also the former Walmart Express in Sardis, and just regular DG stores in town that have been remodeled -- are all exhibiting the new, more upscale (for DG, anyway) signage that's similar to what's in this DG Market. There's no woodgrain or department signs throughout the interior, but the signs that do exist still carry the same shape (modeled off of Dollar General's logo, I believe), and the color scheme is basically the same as what you see on the remodel notice posted on this location's front door. The front wall also is painted black to add some contrast, and altogether the presentation is pretty nice, although of course it's nicest in the Fred's conversions because of the all-new fixtures.

    1. Ha, haven't had to separate a comment into two parts in a while!

      The bad news, though, is something that we've discussed before on Discord -- all the unused space. A typical Dollar General is smaller than a typical Fred's was, so in several of these Fred's stores, a lot of the space is simply empty, and closed off to the public. What a waste, especially considering what else could be done with the space! I've encountered this in person at the Southaven store, and I believe the one we talked about previously was the Clarksdale location. I can't 100% guarantee that Clarksdale has empty space, but I do know we discussed how Dollar General did not put any fresh groceries in there, despite the fact that they claim to be expanding that concept nationwide (and from what you wrote in this post, apparently even some Popshelf stores will be getting groceries!). Clarksdale certainty could've used fresh groceries due to the town's loss of Kroger a few years ago, which we have also discussed and which I will talk more about very soon. Anyway, bottom line, I don't know why Dollar General wouldn't have taken the opportunity to utilize this extra space in some of these Fred's conversions to introduce things like fresh groceries or, nowadays, a Popshelf store-within-a-store. Maybe we'll see the latter in the future at the Southaven location; that might be something to watch out for. DG may have some exciting stuff going on, but it baffles me why they wouldn't take advantage of opportunities that are right in front of them like that -- whether those are opportunities that would benefit them or, more importantly, that would benefit the community.

      I'll close this (very long!) comment by confirming that, yep, the Fred's conversions do indeed have self-checkouts, just like this Merritt Island store. However, instead of individual register lanes, the setup in those stores is to have a queue counter along the front end, with just three register stations. The outer two, numbers 1 and 3, are staffed registers... but in-between them, register number 2 is an outward-facing self-checkout, all part of the same long table. It's a rather interesting setup and one I'd never seen before, but it definitely makes a lot of sense once you see it and seems to work pretty well, especially as far as space utilization and maximization is concerned. I'm pretty sure I've got some photos of that to share eventually, whenever I actually do get around to posting those Fred's conversions I mentioned!

    2. Thanks! I didn’t know the concept was in Florida yet either, which is why I was surprised when I drove by here the other day and saw the Popshelf signage up. (Looking the store locator, Popshelf isn’t in MS yet though – either on its own or paired with a DG Market). I had seen the article about DG Market partnering with Popshelf, but I never would have thought the Merritt Island location would have been one of the first chosen for a conversion, so I didn’t think much of it. The combination of Dollar General Market with DG’s trendier offshoot seems strange, but it actually works if you ever get the chance to visit one of these stores in person. While Popshelf gets its own area, it actually completes the store’s merchandise selection, so everything acts as one in the end. DG is trying to brand Popshelf as something more “fun”, so that’s probably why Popshelf’s décor is more youthful and Five Below-ish, even if the intended audience for the store is adults.

      It's been interesting to see Dollar General experimenting with different formats, seeing all the different things a dollar store can create. Downtown Orlando also got a DGX store, and I agree, it seemed much classier than a standard DG also from the pictures I saw. I know the DGX stores have a small selection of fresh foods like sandwiches, donuts, salads, and coffee (typical convenience store fare), but it’s still weird to think that it’s Dollar General selling those items! Who knows what Dollar General will think of next in their quest for world domination?! :)

      I guess Dollar General is trying a bit harder to make their stores (even the regular ones) more visually appealing, but I think some of the older locations especially are too cramped to make any type of new décor look decent, as it gets buried amongst a lot of clutter. Considering Dollar General has some larger format prototypes out there, I don’t know why they couldn’t utilize all the space inherited from those Fred’s stores (or at the very least, officially cut the building in half and rent the unused space to someone else). For some of these smaller communities (like Clarksdale), DG Market makes sense, but for whatever reason Dollar General would rather sit on empty space. I know we’ve discussed this at length in the past, but hopefully DG will make use of that space somehow in the future, maybe once these new Fred’s conversion stores establish themselves (and Popshelf or groceries could then be added, depending on the community). Popshelf is still in its early days and locations seem to be radiating out slowly from Eastern Tennessee into surrounding areas, so maybe once Popshelf starts to enter Mississippi, one of those could be added to the Southaven store to fill the empty space.

      Thanks for the description of the self-checkout system as well! I figured it had to get crammed into that queue line somehow, although I still have a lot of older DG stores by me that use the older central counter set-up (with the square counter straight in front of the doors, and a register on each side – that set-up is probably not as easy to cram a self-checkout into). I’m looking forward to seeing your coverage of these Fred’s stores following their respective conversions (although I’m sure you still have plenty of Fred’s stores while still open to go through, considering what you wrote in your last post!)

    3. You're welcome! I don't even know of any DG Market stores in Mississippi, so it's no surprise that Popshelf isn't here yet, either. Well, actually, it is kinda surprising that Dollar General isn't seizing the opportunities across the state as discussed later in your comment, but you get my point! Seriously though, as you said, maybe something more will come of the Fred's conversions... we can hope, anyway.

      Yep, DGX strikes me as very convenience store-like, too, which is rather odd for them, to be honest! Definitely gonna be interesting to see whatever Dollar General has up their sleeves next XD

      Yep, fair point about the older stores being a bit too cluttered to look nice, even with the new décor. And you're welcome for the self-checkout details. Yeah, no clue how that's being handled in the older stores with those central registers! And thanks -- it shouldn't be too much longer; only three operating Fred's stores left to go... (so in other words, this time next year, lol XD )

  4. Very neat concept to see these two together. Popshelf seems like it does have potential.

    1. I thought this combination worked pretty well, even with how different DG is trying to make Popshelf from its standard stores.