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THE CURRENT EDITORIAL COMMENT

 

Things We'd Like To See in 2014

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Highlights of January 2014 Issue


IN THE NEWS:

 

DeCA ID Scanning Rollout Nears Completion

 

• FORT LEE — The rollout of the Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA) recently announced program to scan patrons' identification cards at the checkout is nearing completion. On Oct. 22, the commissary at Fort Lee, Va., became the first store to participate in a test of the system before the initial phase of the program began on Nov. 10. The agency-wide rollout is slated to be completed by the middle of this month.

Commissary patrons are, by and large, used to showing their ID cards to establish their commissary eligibility. The agency explained that because IDs are now scanned at checkout, it will no longer need to maintain any personal information on customers in its computer systems, for example the system used for customers who write checks.” ...

 

NEXCOM Offers Deployed Free Phone Cards

 

• VIRGINIA BEACH — In what has become a holiday tradition, Sailors and Marines on 40 ships and submarines deployed away from their homeports, and those forward-deployed to overseas ports, were given a free $10 phone card to call loved ones back home.

“This is just one small way that we can thank our servicemembers for their dedicated service to our country,” said Thomas Harris, NEXCOM Afloat Personal Telecommunications Service Program. “We hope this phone card will bring them closer to their families and friends during the holiday season.” ...

 

AAFES Execs Shift, HR Directorate Realigns

 

• DALLAS — The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) recently named a new senior vice president (SVP) for Exchange Credit, and shifted the duties of two other VPs as it realigned its Human Resources (HR) Directorate. ...

 

AAFES Recognized As Top Military Spouse Employer

 

• DALLAS — The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has earned the 2014 Military Spouse Top Employer title by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs and Military Spouse.

AAFES ranked No. 1 out of 50 other companies, topping such other military friendly spouse employers as USAA; Walmart; Amazon.com; Hewlett-Packard Co.; Dollar General Corporation; and Safeway Inc. ...

 

OBITUARY: Edward “Ed” Rossell, Semper Fit Construction Project Manager

 

Edward “Ed” Rossell Jr., the East Coast Nonappropriated Fund (NAF) regional construction project manager for the Semper Fit and Exchange Services Division, the entity that oversees the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX), passed away on Nov 6.

Rossell served in the Marine Corps NAF Construction Program for 33 years. During his tenure, he oversaw more than 200 exchange and morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) program construction projects. ...

DeCA Food Stamp Usage 'SNAPS' $100-Million Barrier, Coupons, WIC Drop

 

• FORT LEE — With the economy continuing on a sluggish and uneven path, Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) patrons' use of food stamps — now known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) — rose once again during fiscal 2013. The year's nearly $5 million increase in SNAP usage was not enough to offset a $13.2 million decrease in manufacturer coupon redemptions, and a $2 million slip in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program usage. ...

 

Read more IN THE NEWS ...

Exchange Thanksgiving Holiday Sales Trump Civilian Trend

 

Cumulative military exchange sales — based on the exchange services' and Veterans Canteen Service's (VCS) respective reporting periods surrounding the Thanksgiving Day holiday — were better overall than the prior year, and also trumped a civilian retail sector that saw sales dip almost 3 percent in comparable channels. In general, the exchanges posted their strongest increases during the Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend, reversing the impact that some of the extensively advertised outside-the-gate competition may have had on their Black Friday totals.

Civilian consumers outside the gate spent nearly 3 percent less overall than they did a year earlier, while military and VCS stores saw sales rise anywhere from just above flat to more than 6 percent, with different services showing even stronger gains on different days. ...

Read more EXCHANGE THANKSGIVING SALES ...

DeCA Interview: Category Management Transforming the MBU

Executive Director, Sales, Marketing and Policy Group, Rogers E. Campbell

It's no secret that fiscal 2013 presented some highly adverse operating conditions for commissaries. That the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) fell just short of the recent $6-billion high-water mark in sales, however, during a year marred by furloughs and understaffed conditions in the wake of a hiring freeze, is no small achievement. What perhaps gratified the commissary staff more was the resounding vote of approval patrons gave these stores when they thronged to their nearest commissaries to stock up and maximize savings, just prior to the government shutdown in October.

But “falling just short” is not good enough for Rogers E. Campbell, the executive director of DeCA's Sales, Marketing and Policy Group, and in this exclusive interview with E and C News, he outlines the ways that the agency hopes to surpass the $6-billion level again during fiscal 2014, and leverage the efficiencies born of its latest profound reorganization, while at the same time testing and perfecting a raft of new initiatives to win back patrons who were forced to stray during the furloughs and government shutdown in 2013. But more to the point, Campbell aims to ensure that the benefit is available to as many eligible patrons —— whether near to or far from the gate —— as possible, with savings achieved through the highest standards of category management, that servicemembers and their families have rightfully earned. ...

'We recognize these changing expectations and alternatives that our shoppers have, and they challenge us — to the greatest extent possible — to keep pace with the commercial marketplace, because it's what our patrons deserve.'
— Executive Director, Sales, Marketing and Policy Group, Rogers E. Campbell

 

Read more CATEGORY MANAGEMENT TRANSFORMING THE MBU ...

DeCA EASTER CANDY: Longer 'Season' Gets off to Early Start

 

With Easter falling on April 20 this year, the prospects for strong seasonal candy sales in Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) stores during the period look promising. A reason for that optimism can be seen in comparisons of the results and durations of the sales periods for the past two years.

DeCA Commissary Management Specialist Charles Dowlen reported that dollar volume in commissaries for Easter 2013 totaled $7.15 million, which he noted was “slightly down” by 3.1 percent “because the sales period was shorter by eight days,” than the preceding year, since Easter Sunday in 2013 fell on March 31. In spite of that, he pointed out “the average sales per day were higher in 2013, and total sales would have surpassed sales for 2012 with the additional days.” With that in mind, he said, “We are very optimistic about sales for 2014, and with Easter Sunday on April 20, we are predicting a strong sales increase. As you know, Easter dates can fluctuate dramatically from year to year, and Easter has moved to April 20 for the 2014 season, so we will have an extra two weeks for the season this year. Suppliers and store managers are preparing for a longer selling period for 2014 and will be ordering additional product.” ...

Read the complete DeCA EASTER CANDY ...

DeCA Healthy Foods/Perishables: To Good Health!

DeCA category managers — Steve Villeneuve, Richard Walker, and Bridget Bennett

“Healthy Eating” long ago outgrew being a trendy catchphrase in Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) stores. For many years now, the Department of Defense (DoD), the military service branches, and DeCA have made healthy living a priority, putting in place a variety of programs and measures to encourage healthier choices and lifestyes. From DeCA's own “USDA Organic” labeling, “Eat Healthy and Be Active Your Way” and “Go Lean with Protein” campaigns, to DoD's “Operation Live Well” and its new Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), the focus on supporting better health and nutrition has intensified dramatically in recent years. Even with a recent decline in the number of active-duty servicemembers impacting grocery sales overall, the “Better For You (BFY)” and “Good For You (GFY)” portions of category assortments, and produce departments (up almost $20 million in fiscal 2013) in general, continue to see sales increases as commissary shoppers are responding positively to many of these types of items. And although performance can vary by region and product, the outlook continues to be bright for continued growth in BFY, GFY and organics overall.

E and C News spoke with several DeCA category managers — Steve Villeneuve, who handles dairy, Richard Walker, who is responsible for frozen foods, and Bridget Bennett, who oversees produce, regarding healthy food options and their ongoing impact on the worldwide commissary food portfolio. ...

E and C News: Organic products were very trendy a number of years ago. Where do you feel that trend currently stands in your category area? Has it leveled off? Do you see any further prospects for sales growth for organics items in your categories?

Villeneuve: BFY and organics continue to have a place in the business, and are still growing in most segments..

Bridget Bennett: Organic produce sales will continue to see growth in 2014. The main drivers for this increase are health and nutrition, concerns about effects of pesticides and avoidance of artificial ingredients.

According to Reportlinker.com's “United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018,” it has been projected that the organic food market in U.S. will grow at the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 14 percent during 2014-18.

Overall, DeCA sees a growing trend in sales, with regional differences and varied results. We do not expect to see this trend level off. The number of organic products offered has grown over the last year, and the assortment varies seasonally.

New emerging organic trends include power greens like kale and spinach. Juicing has become popular, and these nutritionally packed greens, along with acai and goji berries, are gaining fans.

Our value-added category continues to grow with power greens salads and seasonal fruit, and new berry SKUs. Our Northwest area produce supplier, Spokane Produce, is packaging organics under an in-house-created label called “Living Organic.” They promote three to four organic items per week, which has helped the category grow with proven success.

Walker: GFY products are trending higher in sales growth than traditional frozen items, and based on sales volume, are still continuing to climb in DeCA. Within remaining markets (RM) — traditional retail supermarkets — similar growth continues, in both in dollars and units, with a 6-percent growth in dollars and unit sales for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 7.

As we begin the process of category reviews, GFY items will remain a point of interest to ensure we offer the very best assortment in this apparent area of interest. ...

 

Read the complete TO GOOD HEALTH! INTERVIEW ...

Snapshot
RESALE SNAPSHOT — October 2013

 

Click Here for “RESALE SNAPSHOT” Totals