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Does 'Five Below' Signify the Dollar Store's Death?

With discount retailer Five Below coming to Ballwin, Patch considers whether genuine "dollar stores" have gone the way of the soda shop.

Everyone knows the dollar's buying power has decreased lately. On a personal level, this reality became clear around 2005, when it appeared that 99 cent junior-bacon cheeseburger had been downsized. Those were dark days.

But fast food restaurants are far from the only merchants slowly snubbing the paper face of our esteemed first U.S. President. Any shopper who's been inside the in Ballwin or Ellisville, Family Dollar or a similar retailer lately has likely seen more than just a few items costing more than a buck. A minority of items exceeding $1 used to be relegated to the checkout, but now have penetrated the endcaps, floor displays, and yes, even the candy aisles, marking the last definitive fiscal sign that America's economy is about to collapse.

An article published in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch further underscores this concern. Five Below, a discount retailer targeting items less than $5, recently completed plans to move into Ballwin's main retail corridor at the former space. Selling toys, sporting goods, clothes and candy, the business appears to embrace a familiar mindset of "jack-of-all-trades, master of none," with hands in all the retail potpourri that once was unique to dollar stores.

So far, it appears that model is serving them well. Since the Philadelphia-based company started in 2002, they have grown more than 140 stories nationwide. While easy to dismiss, anyone skeptical of the profit margins to be had selling discounted goods should consider that Dollar Tree, which opened a location in Ellisville in October, made Fortune Magazine's 2011 Fortune 500 list.

So will a new $5 benchmark help focus this company's business and expand the discount-shopper market, or will the number 5 just not carry the same magic charm for Ballwin?

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