While retailers are suffering their worst downturn in more than 20 years, dollar stores are hiring and even building new stores. Consumer Reports takes a closer look at what your dollar really buys.
Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine says it's easy to lapse into a bargain-hunting frenzy in a dollar store.
"You can save big on some things, but we found dollar stores don't consistently offer the best deals," said Jody Rohlena of CR ShopSmart.
And shop with care. When Consumer Reports' safety czar Don Mays stopped by a local dollar store, he found many items that are unsafe at any price.
For example, balloon whistle party favors...which Consumer Reports calls "An Absolutely perfect choking hazard."
And potentially harmful bubbles...packaged in what looks like a baby bottle.
Think a cheap skateboard is a fun toy kids would want to play with? That's the problem. The "skateboard" is actually a lighter!
"We found dozens of safety problems on the store shelves, and this isn't the first time," said Don Mays of Consumer Reports. "We've been reporting on these kinds of safety problems from dollar stores for many years."
When safety is not an issue, how do dollar stores stack up for savings?
ShopSmart magazine dispatched mystery shoppers nationwide to compare prices of 11 common household items-with the cost of similar items at supermarkets, drug and discount stores, like CVS, Walmart, or Target.
"Some things clearly cost less, like aluminum foil...three cents a square foot, compared to eight," said Rohlena.
But in the case of birthday candles, they were both the cheapest and most expensive at dollar stores.
So when shopping at a dollar store...consider safety and savings.
Overall, Consumer Reports ShopSmart found dollars stores to have some of the best deals on party supplies, like napkins, plates, and especially wrapping paper.
But don't expect a good selection.
You may only find one type at a dollar store versus a big assortment at stores like Target.