Seder plates and Easter baskets may seem a little light this April. Discount chain Dollar Tree has chosen to remove eggs from its shelves, but not quite for the reason you’d expect.
After raising its eponymous prices, Dollar Tree has recently become referred to as “Dollar Twenty-Five Tree” on TikTok. It’s been a crucial resource in food deserts across North America for many years. With this in mind, Dollar Tree locations broadened their food inventories to include things like frozen meals. They charged a bit more for those products with the unspoken understanding that they are specialty items.
So what does that have to do with the price of eggs? Over the course of last year, an avian flu killed more than 50 million birds in the US. Consumers started to feel the impact of the illness last fall when it triggered first an egg shortage, then huge price jumps. According to this piece by CNN Business, egg prices went up “11.1% from November to December and 59.9% annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” When your business model runs on the sort of margins as those of dollar stores, that’s an untenable shift.
Another piece from CNN Business noted that “[t]he average price for a dozen Grade A large eggs was $4.21 in February, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” As it turns out, it’s the fluctuations of egg prices that caused issues for Dollar Tree, not just the high prices themselves.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, retail has been among the industries hit hardest for employee retention. As a result, Dollar Tree has been heavily utilizing lean staffing. To quote this piece from the Brooklyn Public Library, “Lean staffing..is intentional, severe understaffing. This is often promoted as beneficial by management and management consultants, and may be described in a way that emphasizes efficiency…If understaffing is long-term and “normal” at a workplace, it is deliberate.” If this story sounds familiar to you and your business, know that you’re definitely not alone.
Many Dollar Tree stores often only have a manager on duty and no other employees. One person has to manage inventory, maintenance, and customer service all on their own. Dollar Tree found that given the rapid fluctuations of the egg prices, adjusting the price tags took too much time. Rather than schedule more people per shift, the company decided to remove eggs from their shelves altogether.
Family Dollar, which is also owned by Dollar Tree, will continue selling eggs.