In 2021, Dollar General (DG) received the Progressive Grocer of the Year award. With 18,000 stores DG is able to reach areas of the country that other big box retailers do not have a market niche. 75% of DG stores are located in rural or small-town America.1
Already located in much of rural America, DG is a perfect fit to help deliver health care goods and other needs in “medical deserts” across the country. DG is planning on carrying cold and cough remedies, hygiene products, and other health aids and medical goods in the future. Along with DG’s healthcare niche they are also planning on putting more health conscience products in their stores. According to ConvenienceStore News, their plan is to carry fresh produce in 10,000 stores in the next few years, as well as continue their partnership with Feeding America.2 This increase in better products and access to healthier food, for some who cannot afford it, will also be a major health benefit.
On top of all that, Dollar General will reach further into the health care market by hiring a Chief Medical Officer for the company, who will focus on developing health care services to be offered by DG stores.3
During the COVID-19 pandemic several “Big Box” chains started to look into or began investing in the health care world. Walmart for instance has always had an interest in increasing healthcare products and pharmacies in their stores. They are now looking at investing in primary care. CVS has added telehealth visits and MinuteClinics in some states, and Walgreens invested $1 billion in VillageMD, a service that provides primary care clinics and telehealth services. VillageMD is also now looking to expand their services to become a primary care provider.4
But unlike Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens, Dollar General already has a very strong footprint in rural America. It is estimated that three out of four rural Americans live within five miles of one of their stores.5,6 At present DG is looking to enter the telehealth market. As of August 2021 DG formed a partnership with Babylon Health, a company aiming to expand accessible telehealth services around the world.
With Dollar General’s strong presence in rural America it could be a game changer and lifesaver for many rural residents who do not have access to care. Whether it be a physician via telehealth, pharmacy products, or just a non-urgent medical need. Also, fresh produce, carrying basic health products, and the increase in broadband money from the USDA in the past few years is a great combination to better the health of rural residents. Better health will decrease chronic diseases in rural America, which generally are at a higher percent then urban per 100,000 population. Hypertension, heart disease, and other health issues are at a higher rate as well. Many of the named diseases also cause complications such as stroke. Morbidity in rural America is also higher because there is less access to care. When a major event such as stroke or a heart attack does occur, many times a person who lives rurally cannot get medical help in a fast enough period of time to survive.
With Dollar General and the other big box stores’ future plans, some access to care and fresh produce to maintain a healthy lifestyle becomes a win-win for America’s rural residents.