By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2004-07-20 Print this article Print

Day 6 - Tug of War

  • More product stocking

  • Customers hover

  • Closer to the Bahamas

    Clerks practice on the registers. Others load skin cream and diapers onto shelves and clip small stuffed animals onto heavy display string dangling in the toy aisle.

    "Grand Opening" signs are already up in Whitesboros windows, although the official event wont happen until April 17. Rambus, chatting on his cell phone on the sidewalk, must turn eager customers away. "Were not open yet. Just setting up. Open Friday," he tells an elderly woman who tries to walk in.

    All 50 Dollar General setters meet once a year to hear managements expectations for openings and learn new procedures. At Januarys meeting, Rambus and Koehn heard about this years incentive to keep openings as efficient and inexpensive as possible. A cruise to the Bahamas will go to whoever sets up a new store this year in the shortest time using the least amount of payroll.

    Its a tug of war between time and money. Rambus gets Whitesboro done with 17 workers in eight days. Koehn opens Jersey Shore in just seven days but it takes three more people, a total of 20.

    Day 7 - Filling In

  • Where to put the "automatics"

  • Packing trucks twice as fast

  • Plugging in coolers

    A final truck arrives with seasonal and special-buy items, including the Brocsonic TVs from Japan, $10 lava lamps and $20 rolling kitchen carts. Dollar General calls those goods "automatics" because theyre automatically sent to all stores without having been ordered.

    In Jersey Shore, the kitchen carts go in a knick-knack area toward the front, near the clothing. "Thats the kind of stuff that a browsing-type customer is going to look at," Hallstrom explains. No sense putting products that call for contemplation near items that purposeful shoppers want to grab quickly, such as milk or detergent, she says.

    Also on the third truck is any fill-in merchandise that was missing from the first two deliveries. That happens when the closest warehouse is temporarily short. The goal is to have all stores within 250 miles of a warehouse. To help stock the Southeast, where the most Dollar General stores are concentrated, the company plans to spend $70 million to build an eighth facility in Jonesville, S.C., next year.

    At two of its other distribution centers, dual-sorting systems—two parallel conveyor belts from the floor to the loading dock—pack trucks twice as fast as single conveyors can.

    Back in Whitesboro, Longway has contacted local food companies to schedule delivery of milk, bread, cheese and other perishables. She now takes charge of setting up three refrigerated coolers. The job is generally done on the last or second-to-last day of setup to avoid smelly food spoilage.

    Perishables come from local vendors, and prices arent as uniform across all stores as with Dollar Generals own merchandise. A gallon of Lehigh Farms whole milk goes for $3.45 in Jersey Shore. In Whitesboro, a gallon of Meadow Brook milk is $2.50.

    Also unlike Dollar Generals own products, cooler items get counted and verified on arrival at stores. The delivery truck driver will bring in boxes and place his quarts and gallons of product on racks in the cooler, while a store manager or assistant manager checks off line items on paper orders.

    More new stores will offer more perishable food than ever. Plus, the chain also this year will open 20 Dollar General Market stores, which are double the size of a regular outlet and focus on supermarket-style products.

    "Food is the direction," Anzor says.

    Next Page: Mop and go.

    Senior Writer
    Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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