On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Francessca Abbott combs through the dollar section at a Target store.

“I’m always looking for crazy deals,” says Abbott, 20.

These days, you can find a lot of “crazy deals” for a buck, from dinner plates to picture frames, bubble bath to jewelry boxes.

In the past few years, large retailers have unveiled dollar sections, often prominently displayed near the front of stores.

Michaels, the arts-and-crafts store, highlights dollar items such as magnets and notecards. Albertsons’ dollar selections include kitchen supplies, sponges and toys, in addition to food items. Target’s promotion, called The $1 Spot, includes seasonal products, such as Halloween masks, as well as perennials, such as stationery and CDs.

During the past few years, dollar stores have thrived, says Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a consumer-behavior research company.

As a result, large retailers have responded with dollar sections of their own, which they say have been popular among customers.

Although Americans have always appreciated bargains, they especially seek them out in times of uncertainty, Beemer says.

“It’s a reflection of the bargain-hunter mentality of America since Sept. 11,” Beemer says. “Americans certainly changed the way they look at what they spend their money on.”

But in their quest to save money, shoppers are still looking for quality items, Beemer says:

“It can’t be junk for $1.”

© 2006, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.