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Dollar Stores’ Rise Was More Than a Century in the Making

By all accounts, dollar stores are doing quite well. Reports for the third quarter of 2012 show that the largest of them -- Family Dollar Stores Inc., Dollar General Corp. and Dollar Tree Inc. -- are all enjoying booming sales.

Such one-price stores have been popular since the 19th century, offering an eclectic and ever-changing inventory at steep discounts. They have provided an efficient way for manufacturers and distributors to dispose of goods that are otherwise difficult to sell. And they have brought an array of consumer goods within reach of even the most cash-strapped Americans.