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Family Dollar Cites Pressure on Core Customers

LONDON — Although Family Dollar Stores sees signs of recovery in the economy, "the averages are misleading when it comes to our consumer population," Mary A. Winston, the chain's chief financial officer, said Tuesday in an analyst presentation here.

Speaking at the Americas Select Franchise Conference sponsored by Barclay's Capital, Winston said, "When you look at the economic data, you do start to see signs of improvement. Unemployment has improved, and housing is starting to pick up. But when you look under that data at the layers of exactly where that's happening, I think there continues to be pressure on the lower-income consumer.

"I think that consumer segment tends to lag in terms of improvement as recovery occurs. So while unemployment is improving, it's still very high for that segment, and our expectation is there is going to continue to be pressure on that customer, and they're going to focus on buying the things they need because they live on a fixed budget, and … spend less on discretionary items."

Winston said the company has lowered its comparable-store sales expectation for the second half of the year to 2% to 4%, "which is lower than what our initial aspiration was when we started the year. That's reflective of the challenges we've seen on the discretionary side of the business."

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