Why Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and Dollar General Aren't the Same Store

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar , many analysts leaped to the conclusion this represented consolidation in the dollar-store space, perhaps even a new challenge to Walmart

TheStreet.Com recently visited Dollar Tree, Family Dollar and a unit of Dollar General , the leader in the deep discount category, to learn what the differences are.

Here is the entrance to a Dollar Tree. It is in a strip mall next to a traditional grocery store and complements it.

The aisles are piled high with merchandise, each item carrying the same price, $1. Shoppers go here for bargains, then go to the grocery to fill their lists. Or they come in and make impulse purchases of relatively durable goods, like kitchen tools, candy, and toys for young children.