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We shopped at Dollar Tree and Dollar General to see which offered a better shopping experience, and the winner was obvious

Business Insider Logo By Mary Hanbury of Business Insider | Slide 1 of 36: Dollar Tree and Dollar Generalare the largest dollar stores in the United States and are neck-and-neck in terms of store count and annual sales. Based on numbers alone, the two chains are almost identical. However, there are some big differences in the shopping experiences you'll have at these stores.On Thursday, the two companies reported second-quarter results. Same-store sales at Dollar General were up 3.7%, while  Dollar Tree reported a more modest 1.8% growth because of weaker sales at its Family Dollar stores. We put the two stores to the test.  Bargain-hunting has been the flavor of the past decade. Since the recession, cost-conscious consumers have flocked to off-price, thrift, and dollar stores in search of good deals. As a result, these stores have seen a surge in sales. From 2010 to 2015,  US dollar-store sales grew to $45.3 billion from $30.4 billion, and  hundreds of stores have opened. The credit-rating agency Moody's said it expects this market to grow 8% in 2018. That's about double the growth of 3.5% to 4.5% it expects for US retail in general during the same time.Dollar General and Dollar Tree are the two largest dollar stores in the United States and based on numbers alone, the two chains are almost identical. Dollar Tree - and its newly acquired Family Dollar chain - have slightly more locations than Dollar General, but both have about 14,000 to 15,000. In terms of sales, Dollar Tree is a close second,  generating $22 billion in sales in 2017 compared with  $23.5 billion at Dollar General. But there is a massive difference in the shopping experience at these no-frills stores. First and foremost, Dollar Tree sells only products that are $1 or under, whereas Dollar General, which once did the same, is now more like a discount retailer. In recent quarters, Dollar General has outpaced its main rival in terms of sales growth. In the most recent quarterly results, reported on Thursday, same-store sales were up 3.7% at Dollar General and 1.8% at Dollar Tree, because of weaker sales at its Family Dollar stores.  We visited both stores in March to see how they compared:

Bargain-hunting has been the flavor of the past decade.

Since the recession, cost-conscious consumers have flocked to off-price, thrift, and dollar stores in search of good deals. As a result, these stores have seen a surge in sales.

From 2010 to 2015, US dollar-store sales grew to $45.3 billion from $30.4 billion, and hundreds of stores have opened. The credit-rating agency Moody's said it expects this market to grow 8% in 2018. That's about double the growth of 3.5% to 4.5% it expects for US retail in general during the same time.

Dollar General and Dollar Tree are the two largest dollar stores in the United States and based on numbers alone, the two chains are almost identical.

Dollar Tree - and its newly acquired Family Dollar chain - have slightly more locations than Dollar General, but both have about 14,000 to 15,000. In terms of sales, Dollar Tree is a close second, generating $22 billion in sales in 2017 compared with $23.5 billion at Dollar General.

But there is a massive difference in the shopping experience at these no-frills stores. First and foremost, Dollar Tree sells only products that are $1 or under, whereas Dollar General, which once did the same, is now more like a discount retailer.

In recent quarters, Dollar General has outpaced its main rival in terms of sales growth. In the most recent quarterly results, reported on Thursday, same-store sales were up 3.7% at Dollar General and 1.8% at Dollar Tree, because of weaker sales at its Family Dollar stores.

We visited both Dollar General and Dollar Tree in March to see how they compared

(Click through the slideshow)

© Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

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