100 jobs at stake as Charlotte discount retailer sold to Dollar General

Dollar Express signs are on display at the company’s headquarters off Independence Boulevard.
Dollar Express signs are on display at the company’s headquarters off Independence Boulevard.

About 100 corporate employees at the new Charlotte discount chain Dollar Express may be losing their jobs as the company is sold to Tennessee-based Dollar General.

Dollar Express employees were notified Friday morning that the company’s owners, private equity firm Sycamore Partners, had sold the chain’s approximately 330 stores to Dollar General, according to sources familiar with the deal. The transaction is not yet complete, and its terms were not available.

Dollar Express sprang up quietly in a nondescript office park last year off East Independence Boulevard. To address federal anti-trust concerns in its agreement to acquire Matthews-based Family Dollar, Dollar Tree sold about 330 Family Dollar stores to Sycamore Partners, which was in the process of developing the stores into a new concept, Dollar Express.

Sources say the deal was unexpected for employees, some of whom had moved their families from faraway states like Texas, Montana and California.

“It’s a shame to bring all these people into it as an experiment and then sell (the company) if you weren’t sure it was going to work,” said one former employee, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

It’s unclear whether all employees will be terminated. Also unclear is the fate of store-level employees. A spokesman for Sycamore Partners and Dollar Express declined to comment, and Dollar General could not be reached.

Ironically, Dollar Express’s new owners, Dollar General, had tried unsuccessfully in 2015 to acquire Family Dollar. In a prolonged bidding war, Dollar Tree ultimately prevailed, purchasing Family Dollar for about $9.1 billion.

A former Dollar Express employee said the company had not yet begun re-branding the 330 former Family Dollars – that was to take place May 1. Two Charlotte Family Dollar stores were supposed to have been converted into Dollar Express stores – one at 1437 E. Sugar Creek Road, and another at 5300 South Blvd.

Sycamore Partners is the firm that bought Charlotte-based Belk in 2015 for $3 billion. Belk was Sycamore’s first department store deal, and Dollar Express was the firm’s first dollar-store chain. Sycamore had staffed Dollar Express with industry veterans like CEO Bruce Efird, an Albemarle native and former CEO of Fred’s, a discount retailer based in Tennessee.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta