Family Dollar Sees Opportunity in Food Stamps

Jan 08, 2009

By George

Family Dollar
has found a niche serving lower income consumers and
found that offering consumables is a sure fire way to drive traffic during
good times and bad. Now the chain is looking to speed up its rollout of
the company’s "store of the future" so it can sell food to consumers
paying with food stamps.

As reported
by the Los Angeles Times, Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine recently
told analysts that the company currently accepts food stamps at 3,000 of
its stores and is looking to offer the service at the 3,600 locations that
don’t currently accept payment from the government program.

Mr. Levine
said that the number of households using food stamps increased by 17 percent
in September ’08 compared to the previous year. A total of 14 million households
were food stamp recipients.

expansion of our food assortment, combined with the upgrade of our point
of sale technology, positions us well to serve this growing population
of customers," he said.

Discussion Questions:
What are your views on the food stamp opportunity? What does it mean
for retailers looking to serve this market while finding a point of difference
from the competition?

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "Family Dollar Sees Opportunity in Food Stamps"

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David Livingston
8 years 9 months ago

Smart move by Family Dollar. I’m surprised they don’t already accept Food Stamps at all locations. Family Dollar has been brave enough to open stores in areas that most of us would be terrified to go. Combining a weak economy along with the fact that many grocers have deserted urban areas, look for other dollar stores to follow suit.

Liz Crawford
As of Oct 2008, the SNAP program has been helping consumers and retailers transfer food stamp benefits easily at the point of purchase. Here’s a paragraph from the government site about how it works: “SNAP recipients electronically receive SNAP benefits on an EBT Card, which operates like a debit card, to buy eligible food at stores authorized by the Food and Nutrition Service. In order to complete a transaction, the customer swipes the card in a point-of-sale device (POS) and enters a four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). The store clerk enters the exact amount of the purchase on the POS device. This amount is deducted from the household’s EBT SNAP account and credited within two banking days to the retailer’s bank account.” Because the program is geared to work across all 50 states, uniformly at POS (to the extent possible), it doesn’t become a point of difference per se, for the retailer. Nor should it be. Rather, Dollar Stores have an advantage with SNAP simply because of their shoppers are more likely to use SNAP cards. Here are the advantages for Dollar Stores the way I see it: 1.) The clerks may be more accustomed to accommodating these purchases… Read more »
Charles P. Walsh
Charles P. Walsh
8 years 9 months ago

A smart move by Family Dollar to further develop it’s niche market segment of lower income and opportunity shoppers.

America’s social welfare dependents rolls are increasing and that trend is unlikely to reverse itself any time soon. Family Dollar is simply preparing itself to accept the new forms of payment that will continue to develop in our new economy.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
8 years 9 months ago

I’m not to familiar with the food stamp program but I’m sure it’s awful for anyone to have to use them. That said, Family Dollar is the first major chain that I have heard of that accepts food stamps (I could be and probably am wrong at this point but I’ve never walked into a Target or Walmart and seen the option to pay by stamps, only in small localized grocers). I would think that families could really stretch the value of those stamps at Family Dollar so it may benefit the user at the end of the day. I would love to know what the costs are and if this is more a charitable move by FD or does it work like cash?.

Gene Detroyer

I am not very familiar with the Food Stamp program but on the surface, welcoming Food Stamp usage in Family Dollar Stores makes ultimate sense.

Family Dollar focuses on a low income niche. Therefore:
1. Accepting Food Stamps will help those in the target niche who don’t know Family Dollar to discover it.
2. Every user of Food Stamps they attract has the potential to buy other Family Dollar offerings.
3. There is no doubt that more potential shoppers will qualify for Food Stamps in 2009.
4. As the current Food Stamp users go off of Food Stamps, the likelihood of having a connection to Family Dollar is high.

Cathy Hotka

This is a classic example of how innovative technologies can grow the business. Retailers who are tempted to cut their IT budgets should think again.

Bill Bittner
Bill Bittner
8 years 9 months ago
In preparing a response to this question I did a little research. (First of all, for some reason the name of the program was changed from Food Stamps to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in October 2008. I am sure someone saw a benefit to changing the name of a program that had existed since 1939 but it is beyond me.) The number of monthly benefit recipients in 2006 was 29 million people. There are about 15 qualification requirements ranging from “countable assets” to gross and net income. The first one is countable assets and puts the limit at $2,000 or $3,000 depending on whether someone in the household is disabled. All states are now on the Electronic Benefits program so the person in front of you could be using a Food Stamp, sorry SNAP, Card and you may not even realize it. So, the potential market here is 29 million people who don’t have more than $3,000 in countable assets. The qualification for retailers is that each store must meet either of the following requirements: Offer for sale at least three varieties of food in each of the following four staple food groups, with perishable products (frozen, fresh, etc.)… Read more »
Mel Kleiman

A sale is a sale as long as you get paid for it. Most major food retailers already take food stamp payments. Now Family Dollar is doing it in such a way that it is making it easier and getting great press out of it. Great move on their part.


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