Dollar Store Review
Oh boy time for another store review! This time I’m reviewing Canada’s major dollar store chains, since if there’s one thing I like (beyond shopping bins) it’s cheap plastic!
Now of course, due to that pesky inflation, none of these chains are true dollar stores anymore. Each of these chains sell most of their wares at prices above $1.00, usually at various price points to boot (excluding Dollar Tree). Thus, these stores are now known as “variety” or “discount” stores in the biz. However, I will refer to each of them as “dollar stores” simply because that’s the terminology everyone uses.
In Canada there are multiple dollar store chains including:
- Dollar Tree Canada
- Your Dollar Store with More
- Buck or Two Plus!
- Great Canadian Dollar Store
- Various independent dollar stores under multiple different names / banners
However, when it comes to product, many of these chains share their product lines with each other. In total, I would say there are 3 importers who import products from overseas for sale here in Canada:
- Dollarama – Imports various products, mostly from China, but also from India, Taiwan, and (oddly) Israel for sale at their namesake stores. Dollarama also buys from various Canadian suppliers as well including some major Quebec firms like KIS plastics.
- Dollar Tree – Imports various products (again) mostly from China, under their subsidiary DTSC Imports (formerly based in Burnaby, BC, now based in Mississauga, ON), for sale at Dollar Tree stores in Canada. Dollar Tree doesn’t buy much from Canadian suppliers as they are a subsidiary of their American parent Dollar Tree, Inc. and are integrated with Dollar Tree’s overseas logistics network.
- Independent importers – Including Link Product Solutions Ltd. and other companies who import products using various generic brands such as Selectum. These importers sell their products to smaller chains and independent dollar stores such as Your Dollar Store with More, Buck or Two Plus!, Great Canadian Dollar Store, Absolute Dollar, and more.
Thus, based on product, you can categorize most of Canada’s dollar stores into these 3 groups. However, I will be reviewing each of these chains independently since there are some minor differences in the standard product lines between each of these chains.
Dollar Stores: My take!
Here’s my take on each of Canada’s major dollar store chains. I have organized this list based on the chain’s store count and size. It is not a “top-10” ranking as I find that each chain serves a good niche and therefore each store has benefits and downsides based on the niche it aims to serve.
So let’s begin!
- Founded: 1992
- Areas served: Every province in Canada
- Number of stores: ~1,300
- Price point: up to $5.00
- Headquarters: Montreal, QC
If there’s one name that pops into the mind of every Canadian when you say “dollar store” it’s Dollarama. The largest, publicly traded, dollar store chain in Canada with over 1,300 stores and a further 700 expected to open by 2031. When it comes to dollar stores in Canada, Dollarama is a behemoth.
Dollarama started all the way back in 1992, by Larry Rossy. Prior to that, Rossy operated a chain of discount stores under the name “Rossy S.” From the start, Dollarama was very successful. Originally with a price point of $1 for all items, Dollarama now offers a wide selection of standard dollar store fare like: housewares, kitchenware, plastic items, toys, stationery, basic health and beauty, basic food, hardware, and craft products, all at various price points, up to $5.00.
Between each of their stores, Dollarama is very consistent. The layout between different stores is often the same, the product selection is similar, and so are the price points. Dollarama is a very good option if you’re in a new area and need something because, if it’s at the Dollarama in your home town, it’s probably sold in another Dollarama 3 cities over.
Dollarama also offers much higher quality products compared to their competition. Thanks to their size, the company has great buying power which has allowed the chain to keep prices low and selection good. I love going to Dollarama because it’s always a bit of a scavenger hunt, with new products coming in on a regular basis.
Out of all these chains, Dollarama is the one I go to the most, thanks to its convenient store network and excellent product line. Often you can find brand-name high-quality products at Dollarama for a fraction of the cost compared to the likes of Walmart and Loblaw.
If you’re ever on a trip to Canada from overseas definitely check this store out, it’s worth a visit.
2. Dollar Tree Canada
- Founded: 2010
- Areas served: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario
- Number of stores: ~237
- Price point: $1.50
- Headquarters: Mississauga, ON
Dollar Tree Canada, a privately owned subsidiary of the US giant Dollar Tree, began operations in 2010 with Dollar Tree Inc’s acquisition of the small, regional chain Dollar Giant. Originally based in Burnaby, BC, with stores in British Columbia and Ontario, Dollar Tree Canada has expanded rapidly over the past 12+ years and now operates from BC to Ontario with ~237 stores, two distribution warehouses, and a headquarters in Mississauga, ON. Long term, Dollar Tree intends to continue their expansion in Canada, with the belief that Canada can comfortably sustain ~1,000 locations (Dollar Tree 2021 Annual Report, 2022, p.5)
Unlike other chains in Canada, Dollar Tree doesn’t have multiple price points for the vast majority of their product line, instead most items are priced at $1.50, with some items selling for $1.25 or less. Price wise, Dollar Tree has been very consistent, remaining at the $1.25 price point from the Dollar Giant acquisition all the way up until 2022!
Product wise, Dollar Tree sells your standard dollar store fare: housewares, kitchenware, hardware, stationery, basic health and beauty, basic food, toys, and boy oh boy LOTS of plastic! Quality wise, Dollar Tree sells lower quality products than Dollarama however, you can often find the same quality of products at Dollar Tree as you can at Dollarama, at a lower price to boot. Dollar Tree also has a very unique selection of products, with many items not seen at competing stores. Thus, for me, Dollar Tree is always an excellent option, simply for all the weird and wonderful stuff they sell.
Much like Dollarama, Dollar Tree also has similar layouts between their different locations. The only inconsistency I’ve noticed is that some Dollar Tree stores are much more “messier” than others. However, this is often a minor problem.
And just like Dollarama I hit up Dollar Tree all the time. For a more “American” style of dollar store in Canada, at a lower price point and with a unique product line, they’re your best bet!
3. Your Dollar Store with More
- Founded: 1998
- Areas served: Every province outside of Quebec
- Number of stores: ~100
- Price point: Multiple, $1 – $30
- Headquarters: Kelowna, BC
One of Canada’s younger dollar store chains, Your Dollar Store with More operates across Canada with stores in every province but Quebec. Unlike both Dollarama and Dollar Tree who run corporate stores, Your Dollar Store with More operates under a franchise model, with most stores owned by a single person or group of people. It is the largest franchised dollar store chain in Canada.
Much like the rest of Canada’s dollar stores, Your Dollar Store with More offers your standard dollar store fare. However, unlike Dollarama or Dollar Tree who focus on keeping prices below a specified cap, Your Dollar Store with More follows a more flexible pricing model, offering products at prices as low as $1 all the way up to $30. This price point flexibility allows Your Dollar Store with More to offer, well more! They sell a wider array of discounted products compared to Dollarama and Dollar Tree, with more selection and unique goods. They offer both generic and brand name products and I’m always impressed with what I can find here.
Your Dollar Store with More is yet another favourite of mine simply because of their selection. If there’s an item that you think a dollar store would sell, a larger Your Dollar Store with More with definitely have it! I’ve found so many different products from this company including mini bottles of Vaseline hand cream that no one else sells, battery testers, lots of different types of kitchenware, and yes plastic bins from Sterilite!
While I don’t visit this chain all that often (simply due to distance, my nearest Your Dollar Store is about 40 minutes away) when I do I have a wonderful time! Definitely check this chain out if you’re looking for something specific and unique from a dollar store!
4. Buck or Two Plus!
- Founded: 1988
- Areas served: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland
- Number of stores: ~47
- Price point: Multiple, <$15
- Headquarters: Vaughan, ON
Much like Your Dollar Store with More, Buck or Two Plus! is a chain of multi-price point dollar stores most of which operate in Ontario. All Buck or Two locations are franchised.
I don’t have much to say about Buck or Two mainly because of how similar the store is to Your Dollar Store with More. The main difference being that Buck or Two has smaller stores with less selection than Your Dollar Store with More.
Founded under the premise of selling all items at either $1 or $2, the chain has since expanded into the multi-price point model. Unlike, Your Dollar Store with More, most Buck or Two locations I’ve seen do have a maximum sale price, usually no more than $15. However, most items are priced between $1 and $5.
I do visit a Buck or Two nearby to my house but I’d say that overall the chain doesn’t offer much in terms of unique products. However, from time to time, you may see something unique for sale and the store carries a different line of Sterilite products from that of Your Dollar Store with More.
I would say, Buck or Two is a good replacement if you don’t have Your Dollar Store with More nearby, but if I had to choose between the two I would choose Your Dollar Store with More.
5. Great Canadian Dollar Store
- Founded: 1993
- Areas served: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland
- Number of stores: ~<50
- Price point: Multiple $1 – $20
- Headquarters: Quispamsis, NB
Great Canadian Dollar Store is a small, somewhat dead, chain of franchised dollar stores. Once a behemoth in the Canadian dollar store space, the chain has slowly downsized into what it is today. In Ontario there are only a handful of stores remaining (two near Toronto at the time of writing this article) down from dozens of stores in the province 20 years ago.
Much like Buck or Two Plus! and Your Dollar Store with More, Great Canadian Dollar Store follows a multi-price point discount store model with most items for sale somewhere between $1 and $20. Selection is similar to that of a Buck or Two Plus! store, as well as the footprint.
In Ontario, most Great Canadian Dollar Store locations have since become Your Dollar Store with More or Buck or Two Plus! locations. Given I am based in Ontario I haven’t had much of an experience with Great Canadian Dollar Store. There is a location in Wiarton that is still open although it’s operated more as an independent dollar store now. A location also opened up in Hamilton in the last 5 years. I guess I’ll have to make a trip out to the hammer to try this chain out sometime.
Hopefully the chain can turn itself around and become something more but I’m not holding my breath.
6. Independent Dollar Stores
- Founded: Whenever the local store opened
- Areas served: Nationwide
- Number of stores: ?
- Price point: Multiple $1 – $50
- Headquarters: N/A
Now this is where the excitement is! Independent, local dollar stores and smaller chains. Much like Buck or Two Plus! and Your Dollar Store with More, independent dollar stores are, well, independent. They often operate under names like <Community> Dollar and Discount, Absolute Dollar, Dollar Planet Plus, etc. and boy, do they offer some unique stuff. I’ve seen independent dollar stores selling things like TI calculators from the 1990s, random tools, housewares, you name it, they may have it.
It’s always a joy to go into an independent store just to see what they may have, because unlike the chains you never know what you may find. Sure, most of the store is your standard dollar store fare, the kind you’d find at Buck or Two, Your Dollar Store with More, whatever, but that one time when you find something special makes the hunt all worth it.
So the next time you see an independent dollar store when travelling the province or if there’s one near your house, go on in, you might find something wonderful!
And there you have it! My review of Canada’s major dollar store chains. When it comes to saving a buck or two (pun intended) there’s no better place than a dollar store.
P.S. Here are some specific dollar store locations that I am quite fond of:
- Your Dollar Store with More, 227 Vodden St, Brampton – An absolutely wonderful dollar store, this place is gigantic given it’s basically the footprint of the Zellers it replaced. If you want something that’s sold at a dollar store, chances are this place sells it!!
- Absolute Dollar, 1220 Steeles Ave E, Milton – Once again a wonderful, big dollar store that gets my stamp of approval. They have similar selection to a standard Your Dollar Store with More but with a bunch of random items thrown in. For example, they sell certain Sterilite storage bins I never knew Sterilite made, highly recommend!
- Dollar Planet Plus, 405 King St N, Waterloo – A smaller dollar store with a good selection of products including your dollar store essentials. What I like the most about this location is that they sell items that I’ve never seen anywhere else. This store is part of, what I believe the owner hopes to be, a larger chain of stores. This one is their first so I wish them all the best of luck!
- Buck or Two, 20 Woodlawn Rd E, Guelph & 259 Grange Rd, Guelph – These two Buck or Two Plus! locations are probably some of the best Buck or Two stores I’ve ever been to. The selection is good and there are plenty of unique items to be found (for example, they sell Sterilite baskets that I’ve never seen before!).
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