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Influential Women: Pooh Vichidvongsa, Dollar General

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GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. – Pooh Vichidvongsa started her career at Dollar General as a pricing analyst before making a move to merchandising.

influential women That change opened the door to an influential role on the team that implemented DG’s non-consumables initiative (NCI), which was designed to revitalize general merchandise and make the entire store more appealing to customers.

Nearly all of Dollar General’s more than 19,000 stores in 47 states now offer NCI. However, the testing and learning required to make it work are ongoing, says Vichidvongsa, vice president and divisional merchandise manager.

“It’s always ‘what’s the next thing?’ because our customer is always changing,” Vichidvongsa says. “So, we ask ourselves, ‘how do we continue to evolve and address her needs?’”

One goal of the NCI initiative is to establish a “treasure hunt” for value, she says. 

“DG’s typical customer has $12 to $15 to spend, so I ask myself ‘how can I offer a solution for something within the $5 range, which might typically be $20 or so in a department store?’ The creativity to make something affordable and on-trend for our customer is the fun part and why I really wanted to be a buyer.”

Pooh Vichidvongsa

Pooh Vichidvongsa

Vichidvongsa, a refugee whose family immigrated to Nashville when she was just four years old, joined the company in early 2008 after earning her MBA from Belmont University and her bachelor’s in mathematics from Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn. 

As someone who wants others to feel welcome and empowered at work, she is actively involved in several of Dollar General’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), including the Women’s Professional Network, African American ERG, and EQUAL (LGBTQIA+).

Vichidvongsa also serves as a mentor, both through formal and information programs, helping to grow others within the company.

Vichidvongsa credits her colleagues at Dollar General, particularly Emily Taylor, now the company’s chief merchandising officer, for mentoring and encouraging her to pursue her interest of switching from pricing to buying. “That was the very first and the biggest [career] highlight, coming from an area that’s completely different from merchandising and learning a new role and department from the ground up,” Vichidvongsa says. 

Her roles in pricing were “very system driven,” with a focus on applying the retailer’s pricing system and analytics to the task of securing merchandise that can be put on store shelves at a price customers can afford, she says. “I was in pricing for seven years, moved up from analyst to director, but I really wanted to be in merchandising. It intrigued me. I wanted to be a buyer.”

In her current role, Vichidvongsa says she aims to “surprise and delight” the shopper, and to give her options. 

“Our customer has always been a value seeker, ever since I’ve been here at Dollar General. When the economy gets tough, that’s when Dollar General means even more to her,” Vichidvongsa explains. “How we price things is important and is one of our four operating priorities – Enhancing our position as a low-cost operator.

“That priority hasn’t changed, but even more now, it represents being more conscious of what she can afford, watching how she’s spending, and building assortments to suit her needs. We’re always observing, we’re always shopping, we’re always trying to listen to what the customer’s telling us, and as her spending changes, we adapt ­accordingly.”