What is Dollarama?
Dollarama is a dollar store retailer that operates a chain of 1,486 stores across Canada. They sell low price household goods including cleaning supplies, toys, candy, gifts, healthcare products, kitchenware, stationery, party supplies and an ever-changing assortment of brand name products that all cost $5 or less. Unlike other retailers, they don’t have sales or accept coupons, instead keeping items at low, fixed price points.
The “dollar store” category is a bit of a misnomer as fewer and fewer items are priced at a dollar as they had been in the past. The company says that it would like to have a $1 offering for each category, but they aren’t able to achieve that due to the cost of raw materials and higher prices from domestic vendors.
Dollarama opened 65 locations in 2022, expects to open another 60 to 70 stores in 2023 and plans to have 2,000 locations by 2030. It’s biggest competitor is US dollar store chain Dollar Tree, which has 227 locations in Canada.
More people in Canada are relying on Dollarama for their shopping, believing that they are going to have lower prices. The chain has increased in popularity in 2022-23, annual sales growing by 16.7% to $5.05 billion. Same-store sales increased by 12% and profits by 27%. The average transaction size only grew by 1.6% only in the 4th quarter, but the number of transactions increased by over 14%.
The company pointed to “higher than historical demand” for consumable products (food, laundry detergent, etc.) as the reason for this, citing current economic conditions as food prices have increased faster than overall inflation.
Dollarama price history
|2009||$1.25, $1.50, $2.00|
In 2009, Dollarama started offering products at three new price points: $1.25, $1.50 and $2.00. In 2012, they added $2.50 and $3.00. In 2015, Dollarama introduced price points of $3.50 and $4.00. In 2022, the maximum price point increased to $5.
- Consistent product availability from store-to-store
- Minimal price fluctuation
- Some items are a good deal per unit price
- No returns or exchanges
- Concerning history surrounding product safety
- Many items have same, or worse per-unit prices than other retailers
Does Dollarama offer online shopping in Canada?
Yes, Dollarama does offer online shopping for many of the products available in store. However, everything on the website is sold in bulk by the case. For example, invisible tape is $1.25 a decent deal, but you have to buy a whole case of 48 for $60 – that’s a lot of tape. Rubber dish gloves are $1.50, but you have to buy $72 worth – a case of 48.
What are the best products to buy at Dollarama?
In general, short lived, disposable, non-consumable products are the best products to buy at Dollarama – particularly those that are discarded after one use. The quality may be low, but the difference is negligible and won’t matter if they get thrown out after use.
Name brand junk food like chips, chocolate, and pop is often cheaper than at convenience stores and the off-brand options are even cheaper.
- Shower curtain liners
- Ziploc bags
- Aluminum foil
- Tin foil trays
- Garbage bags for bathroom and bedrooms
- Dog poop bags and scoopers
- Picture frames
- Painting trays, tarps, and scrapers
- Clothes hangers
- Storage containers and baskets
- Trash bins
Health & personal care
- Pregnancy tests: Dollar store tests including Impulse brand from Dollar Tree and Medicare brand from Dollarama are listed in Health Canada’s Medical Devices Active Licence Listing database and are approved for efficacy and safety when used as directed and just as effective as the significantly more expensive ones at Shoppers or Walmart.
- Hair clips, ties and bobby pins
- Name-brand shampoo & conditioner
- Rubber gloves
- Soft Soap refills
- Scrubbing sponges
- Microfibre cloths
Stationery and craft supplies
- Art supplies
- Pens and pencils
- Journals and notebooks
- File folders and envelopes
- Gardening gloves
- Planters and plant pots
- Wooden stakes and markers
- Greeting cards
- Gift bags, gift wrap and tissue paper
- Disposable paper plates, solo cups and utensils
- Serving trays
- Christmas decorations and stocking stuffers
- Easter decorations and basket fillers
- Halloween decorations
- Kid’s books
- Puzzle books
What products should I avoid at Dollarama?
In general, be extra cautious when buying something that you are going to eat or put on your skin. Off-brand products such as makeup and beauty products, shampoo, dish soap, detergent, pet food and toys, sunscreen, etc. may contain harsher ingredients or be watered down to keep costs low.
In addition, don’t expect anything to be long-lasting or durable. Avoid products that see heavy, regular or repetitive use such as brooms, mops, tools, kitchen utensils, etc.
Always check expiration dates to ensure a product hasn’t already expired.
Toxic metals and “forever chemicals” in dollar store products
Dollarama (and dollar stores in general), have a spotty history when it comes to the health and safety of their products.
In 2018, Dollarama recalled over 50,000 children’s toys due to dangerous levels of phthalates.
A 2022 report and summary by Environmental Defense found that 1 in 4 of the products tested (food, toys, recess and daycare items) from Dollar Tree and Dollarama were positive for substances managed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, including hazardous phthalates, bisphenols, and PFAS or “forever chemicals” as well as toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and antimony.
- The outer ring on a set of stereo headphones was found to have 24 times the legal limit of lead, and five times the legal limit of cadmium.
- The solder inside the same headphones had 170 times what is considered safe on outer portions of the headphones.
- Food cans lined with bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA. The chemical, which helps make plastics harder, was added to the list of toxic substances in Canada in 2010 after studies linked it to prostate disease, breast cancer, infertility and behavioural problems in children.
These products break down and fall apart over time, which can expose the toxic components. Exposures to these, even in small amounts, are linked to reproductive, behavioural, metabolic impacts and chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma and diabetes. as well as to learning disabilities such as low IQ, autism spectrum, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Canada currently lacks regulations for internal lead in products, but the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which governs toxic chemicals in Canada, is in the process of being updated.
Dollarama states that they only engage with reputable vendors holding the required certifications and meeting all Canadian federal and, where applicable, provincial consumer product regulations and guidelines for any given product as well as Dollarama’s own specifications, which may exceed regulatory requirements.
While all products must meet Canadian regulations and Dollarama’s specifications and standards, certain product categories carry higher risks in the event of non-compliance, as they may present health or safety-related hazards. In line with Dollarama’s risk-based approach to managing product compliance, compliance programs and monitoring procedures have been tailored for specific categories such as toys and other children’s products, batteries and electronics, certain health and beauty products and accessories, food, medical devices, over-the-counter drugs and natural health products.
Low cost does not always equal cheap
The price is $5 or less and the product brand and model may typically be sold for much more at other retailers, making the product look cheap at first glance. However, many items are downsized – packaged in custom-made, smaller sizes by manufacturers specifically for Dollarama.
For example, a bag of chips that is 3/4 the size of the chips at the grocery store, or candy bars that are 1/3 smaller. This makes it harder to compare prices as you have to do a little bit of math to determine if it’s actually a good deal.
To confirm you’re getting the best value, calculate and compare the unit prices of the products. Divide the price by the weight (g, kg), length (in, cm) or volume (ml, L) of each and you might find that you’re paying a very average price per unit at Dollarama compared to other retailers.
The CBC Marketplace episode about Dollar Tree and Dollarama found that unit pricing for Fruit Loops at Dollarama was less than Walmart, but that Dollar Tree was more expensive than both of them.
Here are some other examples:
Benzagel Acne Gel
Dollarama was the most expensive per unit:
Ziploc Large Plastic Freezer Bags, 3.78-L, 14-pk
Dollarama was the middle price:
Gain Original Laundry Detergent +Aromaboost
Dollarama was the middle price:
Softsoap Liquid Hand Soap Refill Refreshing Citrus
Dollarama was the cheapest:
Frequently asked questions
Where does Dollarama get their products?
In 2019, Dollarama sources products from over 25 countries, importing 55% of their products from overseas, a “substantial proportion” of which are from China.
In 2020, Dollarama sourced their products 1,350 vendors, the top 10 representing 25% of their products, the top 25 representing just over 40%.
Dollarama aims for a consistent shopping experience from store to store, so all stores carry the same products. They may buy products from name brands that are getting rid of excess inventory that didn’t sell or is the old version of their packaging or formula, to make space for new inventory.
Some consumers report finding food products that are either very close to their expiration date or in some cases, expired. The company says that they follow industry shelf-life standards and monitor expiration dates, but point out that they benefit from a higher product turnover rate. This leads me to believe that they would take advantage of this high turnover by buying large quantities of products that are nearing their expiration to sell them before they expire.
Are Dollarama products safe?
Yes, Dollarama products are generally safe to use. The company gets its products from “preferred and trusted vendors” that hold the required certifications and meet all Canadian consumer product regulations and guidelines and reviews products on a continual basis. However, the company recalls products semi-regularly and studies have found high levels of harmful substances in some of their products.
How does Dollarama keep prices low?
Dollarama’s size and sales volume ($5 billion+) gives them leverage to buy in massive quantities and negotiate suppliers’ prices down.
This size and popularity means that suppliers will often produce smaller packaging or product sizes that are specific to Dollarama (and other dollar stores). This is so that they can sell for an even, low dollar amount.
Price is prioritized over quality, so many products are the cheapest possible version of that item.
Some items are liquidation overstock from the US, for example canned foods. One sign that a product is from the US is when it doesn’t have bilingual packaging.
Lastly, Dollarama has a no exchange, no return policy, saving them the cost of paying refunds on the 10% of retail sales that are returned on average.
What brands does Dollarama sell?
The following are some of the brand name products being sold at Dollarama at the time of publication. They may not be restocked.
- Blistex lip balm
- Softsoap hand soap
- Dawn dish soap
- Scotch-Brite scrub sponges
- Betty Crocker nonstick pans, foil, trays
- Lysol disinfectant
- SpongeTowels paper towel
- Cascades toilet paper
- Panasonic batteries
- Arm & Hammer baking soda
- Sharpie markers
- Krazy glue
What is Dollarama’s return policy?
Dollarama has a “no exchange, no return” policy. However, you can request a refund or exchange if the product is:
- or you did not receive the products ordered (through the website). You must make a request within thirty (30) days of shipment.
This policy is displayed on checkout screens and receipts (but by then it’s too late), but is not prominently displayed in-store, so many customers only find out about the policy when they try to return an item. In Canada, businesses are not required to accept the return of purchased items, unless they are defective.
Here’s how they display their policy when buying in bulk through their website:
Their note warning of their no refunds policy is right above the Order button:
Who owns Dollarama?
The company was founded in Montreal in 1992 by Larry Rossy who inherited his father’s 20-store discount retailer in 1973 and rebranded it as Dollarama in 1992. It is still headquartered in Montreal and CEO Neil Rossy is the son of founder. The company has been publicly-traded since 2009 and is owned primarily by institutional investors.
Over to you
We’re interested to know – what are your go-to items at Dollarama? Let us know by leaving a comment below!