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Even dollar stores adjust in tough times
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      This may be surprising to many of you, because it is somewhat counterintuitive. You would think that a "dollar" store, a store that sells everything for a dollar, would be booming right now.
       As you know, times are tough and everyone is looking to squeeze that nickel.
       But, like every other business, dollar stores are facing their own set of challenges. I recently spoke with Ralph Lobodzinski, president of retail operations for Dollar Star which has a store in the Statesboro Mall.
       Lobodzinski said he and his partners opened their first of what is now a 30 store chain 18 years ago, and really have not had to "tweak" the concept until this year.
       "We are changing by lowering our prices on over 1,000 items," he said. "This is unheard of in the dollar business. With the economy being what it is, and the fact that most of our stores are in malls where the traffic is low, we are trying to entice the customer back into our store by taking a lot of items down to $.88. There are some items that we have reduced to $.49."
       Lobodzinski said on the flip side, they have had to raise the price of some of the items in their stores to insure the provision of a quality product.
       "We do have items that are more than a dollar, but not significantly so," he said. "Also, by increasing the price just a little bit, we can stock a much higher quality product. Our customers have told us that that is what they want."
       With this transition, Lobodzinski acknowledged that the customer will have to be educated in a sense.
       "Our name clearly implies that everything in the store is a dollar," he said. "But, now our prices vary by product, and everything is individually priced so that there isn't any confusion. Our inventory is still very inexpensive, and a great bargain."
       Lobodzinski said part of the new strategy is to carry more clothing and food items.
       "Again, our customers are telling us what they want, and a good number of them would like to see these two types of items sold in our stores, and we are doing that now," he said. "Look for a much bigger part of our store to be devoted to food and clothing."
       Lobodzinski pointed out that many stores such as Dollar General and Family Dollar started out selling everything for a dollar and have evolved.
       "What we are doing isn't unusual in this business," he said. "It is no secret that retail is changing, and it is very important that we listen to what our customers are telling us. We are changing to meet their expectations. Flexibility in our pricing allows us to do that."
       The transition of the Statesboro Mall store has been completed according to Lobodzinski. "I really want everyone to come out and look at what we have done. I think they will be pleased with what we have, especially our toy department."

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