As homegrown retailer Family Dollar has changed hands, another discount retail chain called Dollar Express has quietly set up its own headquarters in a nondescript office park in Charlotte off East Independence Boulevard.
As part of its deal to buy Family Dollar, Virginia-based Dollar Tree in November sold 330 Family Dollar stores to Sycamore Partners, the New York private equity firm that also recently bought Charlotte-based Belk.
The 330 stores are still operating under the Family Dollar banner, but the switch to Dollar Express will take place in coming months, including the hanging of new black-and-red signs, executives told the Observer this week.
Dollar Express, led by longtime retail executive and Albemarle native Bruce Efird, filed incorporation papers in North Carolina last August, but it’s kept a low profile since then. Because it’s owned by a private equity firm, the company doesn’t release any financial statements.
“We believe our significant experience with carve-out transactions will be beneficial in supporting the Dollar Express team to serve our loyal customers and create value,” Sycamore Partners managing director Peter Morrow said in November.
Still, Dollar Express is the first dollar-store acquisition for Sycamore, whose portfolio mostly includes specialty retailers like Hot Topic and Coldwater Creek. Executives this week said they’re optimistic about the discount sector, which has fared better than other retailers such as department stores.
Once fully converted, customers won’t notice many changes in stores, executives said. Store employees won’t either – the only thing changing for them is the signage out front (as well as the name of their employer.)
Like Family Dollar, the new chain, known as a “small format discount operator,” will continue to sell an array of low-priced goods like cleaning products, groceries, toiletries, small gifts and more.
Two Charlotte Family Dollar stores will be converted into Dollar Express stores – one at 1437 E. Sugar Creek Road, and another at 5300 South Blvd.
Dollar Express had eight employees back in November. It’s since grown to 50, and plans to double that figure by the end of the year, executives said. Local hires comprise about half its current workforce; the rest have moved to Charlotte in recent months from all over the U.S.
Executives say Charlotte’s rapid growth and its business environment have made it an attractive place for the young transplants who’ve come to Dollar Express’ headquarters.
When a private equity firm makes an acquisition, it looks to make a company more profitable – either holding on to it, readying it for possible resale, or grooming it to go public. But for now, it’s unclear what Sycamore Partners has planned for Dollar Express after the conversion process.
Efird, Dollar Express’s CEO, was previously the top executive at Fred’s, a discount retailer based in Memphis, Tenn. Coincidentally, former Family Dollar chief operating officer Michael Bloom is now Fred’s president.