Dollar General stock jumps after it brings back former CEO to jolt slowing sales growth

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The exterior of a Dollar General convenience store is seen in Austin, Texas, on March 16, 2023.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Dollar General’s former CEO Todd Vasos is coming out of retirement to helm the company, which aims to rebound from slowing growth and allegations of unsafe working conditions.

Vasos, who served as the discounter’s CEO between June 2015 to November 2022, will replace Jeff Owen effective immediately, the company announced on Thursday.

“The Board has tremendous respect for Jeff and greatly appreciates his many contributions to the Company, especially during his long tenure leading our retail operations,” said Michael Calbert, the chairman of the company’s board, in a statement. “However, at this time, the Board has determined that a change in leadership is necessary to restore stability and confidence in the Company moving forward.”

Owen had been in the role for less than a year. During that time, Dollar General has seen a slowdown in its sales growth and has faced criticism from federal officials and activists for having unsafe stores that put employees at risk.

The company, which is rapidly adding stores and exanding its footprint, has more than 19,000 locations in 47 states. Dollar General has more than 185,000 full- and part-time employees.

Dollar General shares jumped more than 6% in extended trading Thursday.

Lower guidance

When it last reported earnings, Dollar General cut its full-year profit guidance. It did so again Thursday, and said it was now expecting earnings per share of about $7.10 to $7.60, compared to its previous expectation of $7.10 to $8.30.

Dollar General also said it anticipates net sales growth of 1.5% to 2.5%, revised from a previous expectation of 1.3% to 3.3%.

The company said it expects same-store sales to be in a range of flat to down 1% this year, versus a prior expectation of a 1% decline to a 1% increase.

Vasos said in a statement he is “honored” to rejoin the company at such a “pivotal time.”

“I look forward to getting back to work with the broader team as we strive to return to a position of operational excellence for our employees and customers and deliver sustainable long-term growth and value creation for our shareholders,” said Vasos.

Slowing sales have come amid pressure from employees and activists over working conditions. In May, shareholders passed a resolution, over the objections of the company’s board, to start an independent audit into worker safety. But it was unclear if the measure was binding and whether the company would carry it out.

Dollar General has accumulated more than $21 million in fines from federal officials for issues including blocked fire exits, blocked electrical outlets and clutter.

At the time the shareholder resolution passed, a Dollar General spokesperson said the company aims “to create a work environment where employees are able to grow their careers, serve their local communities and feel valued and heard, and we encourage employees to share their feedback through the many company-provided channels so that we can listen and work together to address concerns and challenges, as well as to celebrate successes.”

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