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The Tennessean features an interview with Dollar General’s new CEO - Richard W. Dreiling, who began his retailing career as a Safeway bagboy and worked his way up to executive positions with Safeway, Vons, Longs Drugs, and Duane Reade. Dreiling has only been with the 8,200-store chain for two months, but he is charged with maintaining growth in a tough economy.

Excerpts:

• “I believe we have opportunities within our core business to serve our current customer better. I can also look at you and say that I believe as we begin to focus on our merchandising strategy, we'll have a chance to broaden our appeal and attract more customers. What we offer is incredibly convenient locations with incredibly good pricing. And that's a win-win situation for a very large spectrum of the population, not just a lower demographic or rural customer only.”

• “We pride ourselves on everyday low prices, consistent pricing, so the consumer doesn't have to come in and look at (a product) and wonder what he paid for it last time he was in. We are also the fill-in shopper for a Wal-Mart or a Target (customer), and I believe that we have the chance with our convenient locations and consistent pricing to attract more of those consumers.”

• “I think there's no doubt that there's more economic downturn coming than we've seen already. There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about the price of fuel, and that the consumer now is finally reacting to high fuel prices, buying smaller cars, et cetera. A bunch of economists sat around and said: "Why is that?" Well, the consumer is finally recognizing gas is high and it is not going to go down.

“The fact that there's pressure on food, which is facing inflation right now, and on gasoline, bodes well for (Dollar General). I think people are going to be looking for an inexpensive alternative to the channels that they've historically (shopped) in.

“Also, when you think about the economy and think about the big-box operators, they're all talking about a smaller-box (store) format now. And that smaller format is where we're keenly positioned already, and a format that we understand greatly as an organization. (The average Dollar General store today is about 7,000 square feet.) We have to see how the economic pressure plays out. But if you think about the channel we play in and the space that we play in, I could make a pretty powerful argument that we are well- positioned with our current and future customers.”

KC's View:
This is a good view of where at least some of the competition will be coming from as the economy continues to soften. It is also a piece that provides a good chuckle…as when Dreiling notes that economists couldn’t figure out why people were buying smaller cars that get better mileage. It figures that a retailer would understand this better than an economist…