This week, we speak with Cal Turner Jr., retired CEO of Dollar General. He joined the family’s business in the early 1950s, sweeping floors and doing errands. He succeeded his father as president in 1977 and as chairman in 1988. At the time of his retirement in 2003, he had grown Dollar General into a New York Stock Exchange retailer with more than 6,000 stores in 27 states and annual sales in excess of $6 billion. He is the author of a new book, “My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company.”
Turner explains how his father came up with the concept of “Dollar Pricing”: The cities of Louisville and Nashville near where they lived, many of the big retailers would run a monthly ad blitz for “Dollar Days” where for a single day, everything was priced at a dollar. Cal Senior pitched the idea of “Every Day is a Dollar Day” to his team, and everyone hated the idea. So they tried a money-losing Turner Department Store in Springfield, Kentucky.
It took them 4 days to open the first store — lease any building he could so long as it cost $1 square foot, load up fixtures and merchandise on Monday and Tuesday, put the merchandise out on Wednesday and Thursday, and open to the public on Friday.
When they opened the first store, so many people mobbed the story that they had to close the doors, only letting new customers in when other customers left.
Cal Junior tells how his father would work with suppliers in innovative ways. One supplier had ended up with an excess of fabric, 1000s of bolts of Pink Corduroy. Cal Senior had hime cut the fabric into pants for $1. Soon after, the town was filled with big brawny farmers all wearing pink corduroy pants, giving the town a surprising hue.
His favorite books are referenced here; our conversation transcript will be published here tomorrow.
You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Bloomberg, Overcast, and Stitcher. Our earlier podcasts can all be found on iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, and Bloomberg.
Next week, we speak with Dr. Raife Giovinazzo, who manages Fuller & Thaler’s Behavioral Small Cap Equity strategy.
Cal Turner Jr.’s Book
Cal Turner Jr.’s Favorite Books
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr
New American Standard Bible by Lockman Foundation