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E&C News Cover
Highlights of the September 2008 Issue
Confirmed by Senate, Thurgood Receives
   Second Star

Following an Aug 1 confirmation by the Senate, Brig. Gen. Keith L. Thurgood, USA, was presented with his second star, signifying his promotion to the rank of major general, during an Aug. 14 ceremony held in the board room here at Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) headquarters.

Keith L. Thurgood
(From left to right) Lt. Gen. Richard Y. “Dick” Newton III, Brig. Gen. Keith L. Thurgood and Sgt. Ryan Thurgood.

Officiating at the ceremony was Lt. Gen. Richard Y. “Dick” Newton III, USAF, chairman of the exchange service's board of directors. Thurgood was pinned with his second star while AAFES colleagues, friends and family — including his wife Carol, and his children, one of whom, son Ryan, is an Army sergeant who is preparing for his second deployment tour — looked on.

Breckenridge Named Coast Guard Assistant Commandant,
   With Oversight of CGES, MWR
Rowan Breckenridge

On May 31, Rear Adm. Jody A. Breckenridge, USCG, relieved Vice Adm. Clifford I. Pearson, USCG, as Assistant Commandant for Human Resources (CG-1) and Director of the Coast Guard Trust Fund Board here at Coast Guard Headquaters.

Breckenridge's assignment to CG-1 followed Pearson's recent promotion to vice admiral and appointment as chief of staff for the Coast Guard. As CG-1, Breckenridge serves as the senior Coast Guard officer responsible for the strategic plans and policies governing all military, civilian, and reserve personnel management including workforce management, pay and compensation, education/training, and personnel resource allocation as well as health, safety, and work-life programs.

As director of the Coast Guard Trust Fund Board, she will lead the strategic oversight of the Coast Guard Exchange System (CGES) and Morale, Well-Being and Recreation (MWR) program, and other non-appropriated fund (NAF) activities providing vital non-pay compensation programs. Breckenridge continues to serve as director of the Strategic Transformation Team, where she is responsible for aligning and synchronizing the efforts to transform and modernize the Coast Guard.

AAFES Headquarters SVP, VP Shifts Continue ...

In a fresh round of executive personnel assignments that stem from impending retirements, deployments and other moves announced earlier this summer, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) appointed Daniel Metsala senior vice president (SVP) of its Strategic Planning and Partnerships Directorate; Michael Gividen SVP of the Real Estate Directorate; Samuel “Dave” Nelson vice president (VP) of store operations; Michael Gerth VP of direct marketing in its Marketing Directorate, and James E. “Jim” Skibo VP of marketing and advertising.

Daniel Metsala Michael Gividen Dave NelsonJim Skibo

Metsala, formerly the SVP of the Real Estate Directorate, replaced Edward King, who is retiring (see E&C News 7/08). Gividen, VP of the Real Estate Directorate, replaces Metsala as SVP in that directorate. Nelson succeeds Karin Duncan, who was recently appointed VP of the Sales Directorate (SD). (See E&C News 8/08).

Michael GerthMarie Clift

Gerth, who had been the VP of marketing and advertising in the Marketing Directorate, was named to his new position effective in July, replacing Marie Clift, who recently deployed for a year. Clift, who has been with the exchange service for 24 years, will be reassigned upon completion of her tour. Skibo had been director, SD Support.


Several headquarters-based directorates also experienced personnel shifts. These included changes made in the following directorates:

Virgil DeArmond Paul Riese Joyce BowersCharles Wells
• Procurement Support and Policy Directorate

Virgil DeArmond, associate director of contracting in the Procurement Support and Policy Directorate, was named director of corporate procurement. He replaced Paul Riese, who was named director of Strategic Procurement Analysis in the Strategic Planning and Partnership Directorate.

• Human Resources (HR)

Joyce A. Bowers, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) VP, was named VP, director of Strategic Communications. Charles D. Wells, VP of the Policy Compensation and Labor Division in the Human Re-sources Directorate, succeeded Bowers in EEO.

DeCA Names Apt, Talcott to SD Buying Positions

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) recently announced two major category buyer personnel changes in its headquarters based Sales Directorate (SD).

Norman AptLisa Talcott

Norman Apt, an SD category buyer handling health and beauty care (HBC) products, was recently named category buyer responsible for cleaning items, while Lisa Talcott was named edibles category buyer responsible for honey, jam, peanut butter, meat snacks, popcorn, and miscellaneous snacks.

Col. Salvo Assumes Command of AAFES-Europe
• MAINZ-KASTEL, Germany  
Charles Salvo
The July 16 AAFES-Europe change-of-command ceremony at Wiesbaden AAF saw Col. Forrest Wentworth, USA (right), pass on commandership of the region to his successor Col. Charles Salvo, USA (left). Here, Salvo accepts the region flag from then-Brig. Gen. Keith L. Thurgood, USA, AAFES commander, who presided over the ceremony.

Col. Charles Salvo, USA, assumed command of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) European Region on July 16, at a change-of-command ceremony conducted at the Community Activity Center, Wiesbaden AAF. He succeeded Col. Forrest Wentworth, USA, who had held the position since July 2005. (See E&C News 4/08).

The ceremony was presided over by then-Brig. Gen. Keith L. Thurgood, USA, AAFES commander, now major general.

During the time-honored military tradition, Wentworth transferred total responsibility, authority and accountability for the unit from himself to Salvo.

As AAFES-Europe commander, Salvo oversees more than 7,800 associates working at 1,524 facilities throughout 20 countries that include support to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), the AAFES Grünstadt bakery and water plant, and the Giessen Distribution Center (DC), both in Germany.

Scher — Most Definitely Not Retiring!

The report published in E&C News 8/08, that Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) buyer Debbie Scher was retiring was incorrect. Scher, the NEXCOM buyer of mass cosmetics and fragrances and beauty aids since 1997, continues to be the buyer in that role.

In February 2004, Scher was chosen to head NEXCOM's newly reconfigured Mass Beauty Aids department (department D8), which included mass cosmetics and fragrances as well as several categories which previously reported to Health and Beauty Care (department D1), such as ethnic hair care, feminine hygiene, hair care/color/accessories, body and facial care, bath care, sun care, deodorants and nail care.

DMMs Named for AAFES Childrenswear, PowerZone I

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) recently named managers to lead key merchandise divisions in the Hardlines and Softlines branches of its Sales Directorate (SD).

Kathleen Moore

Kathleen Moore was named DMM of childrenswear, a position that had been vacant since the appointment of Alicia D. Scott-Ross to VP of the Main Stores-Softlines Division. Moore formerly had been DMM of AAFES's Military Clothing Sales Stores (MCSS). No replacement had been named for Moore as this issue went to press.

Jason Moore

In Hardlines, Jason E. Moore, most recently the SD Co-Op Advertising manager, was appointed DMM of PowerZone I, responsible for TVs, DVD players, Cameras, Car, Home and Personal Audio, Phones and Phone Cards. This move, which became effective in August, saw him replacing Chris Burton, who was named SD catalog and e-commerce manager. Burton succeeded Daniel D. King, who was named the director of SD Support, replacing James E. “Jim” Skibo, who was recently named VP of marketing and advertising.

DeCA Realigns European Region
• KAPAUN AS, Germany  

Effective Oct. 1, the Defense Commissary Agency's (DeCA) European Region will see its 42 commissaries realigned to better mirror changes being made to the military landscape, primarily those changes impacting installations in Germany.

According to DeCA Europe, closures related to force realignment have necessitated changes in its zone structure, requiring the shift of stores to different zones “to make the distribution of responsibility more equitable.”

This is most directly seen in the newly renamed Bavaria Zone 31 — previously known as the Wiesbaden or the Bamberg Zone — which lost five stores due to closure in August: Wuerzberg, Darmstadt, Hanau, Idar-Oberstein and Dexheim. The Bavaria Zone now includes Garmisch, formerly in Mediterranean Zone 37, and Patch Barracks, Kelley Barracks and Panzer Barracks, all of which were in Ramstein Zone 32. Several other shifts were made to re-balance the region's four zones. The Ramstein Zone now includes Bitburg and Spangdahlem, formerly in United Kingdom Zone 30, and Wiesbaden, formerly in the Wiesbaden Zone 31. The Mediterranean Zone now includes Lajes Field, formerly in the United Kingdom Zone.

The current DeCA Europe lineup shows the United Kingdom Zone with eight stores; the Bavaria Zone with 11 stores; the Ramstein Zone with 10 stores; and the Mediterranean Zone with 13 stores.


The current store lineup is as follows. Stores which have been realigned in different zones are placed in their new zones and highlighted in italics.

(eight stores)

RAF Alconbury, England
Chièvres AB, Belgium
RAF Croughton, England
RAF Fairford, England
RAF Lakenheath, England
RAF Mildenhall, England (annex)
RAF Menwith Hill, England
Schinnen, The Netherlands
ZONE 31: BAVARIA ZONE (11 stores)
Ansbach, Germany
Bamberg, Germany
Garmisch. Germany
Grafenwoehr, Germany
Hohenfels, Germany
Illesheim, Germany (annex)
Kelley Barracks, Germany (annex)
Panzer Barracks, Germany (annex)
Patch Barracks, Germany

Schweinfurt, Germany
Vilseck, Germany
ZONE 32: RAMSTEIN ZONE (10 stores)
Baumholder, Germany
Bitburg, Germany
Heidelberg, Germany
Mannheim, Germany
Neubruecke, Germany (annex)
Ramstein AB, Germany
Sembach AB, Germany
Spangdahlem, Germany
Vogelweh AB, Germany
Wiesbaden, Germany
(13 stores)

Ankara SF, Turkey
Aviano AB, Italy
Cairo, Egypt
Camp Darby, Livorno, Italy
Incirlik AB, Turkey
Izmir AB, Turkey
Lajes Field, Azores
Mineo, Sicily (annex)
NSA Naples, Italy
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
NS Rota, Spain
NAS Sigonella, Italy
Vicenza, Italy
Beer and Wine: Military Study, Civilian Survey, Many Questions

The subject of a test of selling beer and wine in commissaries — essentially to provide customers an improved one-stop shopping experience — has come into the spotlight in the House version of the National Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 5658). Section 657 of the measure calls for the Department of Defense (DoD) to:

conduct a study evaluating the propriety, patron convenience, and financial utility of including alcoholic wine and beer ... for sale in, at, or by commissary stores.

The bill allows DoD, as part of the study, to set up a:

pilot program involving the sale of alcoholic wine and beer in commissary stores ... at a minimum of 10 locations for a period of not less than four months nor greater than one year.

The question about whether the sale of certain alcoholic beverages should be permitted in commissaries is not altogether new, and has been brought up on many occasions. In this study, commissaries would buy products from the exchange services and systems, and would not charge less for those products than they sell for in exchanges, including the 5-percent surcharge.

This legislative development comes just as a survey of the alcohol-purchasing habits of consumers “outside the gate” has been released, one that reveals a number of insights into the what?, where? and why? questions surrounding these consumer preferences.

Alcohol Survey
A survey of the alcohol-purchasing habits of outside the gate consumers by The Nielsen Company shows that although 75 percent of respondents had purchased beer, and 62 percent had purchased wine, in a traditional grocery store, small independent liquor stores remained more popular than their large-chain counterparts. NRMC Bethesda, Md.

The end-of-the-year holiday season — including Thanksgiving and Christmas — is a busy time for Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) stores. Food is a major part of these celebrations, making it imperative that local commissaries have the right product on hand in the proper quantities.

Holiday Buying
The end-of-the-year holidays are rich with promotions. “Store personnel use the package as a shopping list, and are assisted by sales representatives with determining order quantities,” DeCA Promotions Manager Charles Dowlen said. Ord Community Commissary, Calif.

Also important is being able to adapt to current economic realities, whether during the holiday season or during the year in total, and the agency's stores are offering products that tie into customers' needs to watch their pocketbooks.

Charles Dowlen

Charles Dowlen, Sales Directorate (SD) promotions manager, reported that total sales for 2007 holiday seasonal items in the agency's stores were $63.5 million, an increase of more than 17 percent from the 2006 holiday seasonal program.

Dowlen said early planning was one of the keys to this sales uptick. “Believe it or not, planning for holiday 2008 began before the first displays were constructed for the 2007 holiday season,” he said. “We initially published a Notice to the Trade [NTT] letter explaining when we would start taking presentations for the holidays; this went out in September 2007. Our first actual presentation for the 2008 holidays was on Jan. 2, when we began accepting items for our international package, and it ended with holiday candy presentations on March 30.”

   From 'Slim' to 'Mega': A Configuration for Every Candy
Joel Small

Joel M. Small is serious about sweets. The Sales Directorate (SD) buyer for candy, direct store delivery (DSD) categories, and water, Small is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) assortment meets patron expectations.

One of his responsibilities typically involves attending the All-Candy Expo, a major industry event. His impressions of its relevance to DeCA? “Many of the items at the All-Candy Expo are directed to mass-merchandise retailers and/or specialty stores. DeCA is more a grocery store retailer, with the main emphasis on national branded candy bars and candies.

“Shelf space limits the selections for the DeCA stock assortment. Most candy purchases are impulse-driven, and we try to appeal to the patrons with off-shelf displays and shippers.”


One interesting trend that Small has seen is the updating of traditional favorites, i.e., familiar products with a new twist. “Snicker's candy bars are now available with caffeine, and are for sale in DeCA commissaries. Also, Mars has introduced Premium M&M's with flavors such as mint in white chocolate that feature an additional dark chocolate exterior, as well as [Dove brand] dark chocolate covered almonds.”

DeCA Candy
Computer assisted ordering (CAO) is helping DeCA keep its shelves fully stocked with product. Fort Detrick, Md.

Innovation extends even to packaging. “Many of the stick gums, like '5' and 'Stride,' are being repackaged into 'slim' packs that fit into a pocket or purse more easily.” Does Small see any patron preferences converging with the products now coming into the marketplace? “Patrons are looking for convenience. The 'slim' pack gums should be a very popular item. Another offering is 'mega' packs of items, such as Ice Breaker mints, which are available in packages that fit into car cup holders, thereby allowing easy access for on-the-go eaters.”


In some categories, “never out of stock” is a key consideration for both buyers and store directors. Small said that “while there are some items in each category that need to be in stock at all times, DeCA's policy is to have 98 percent or more of all carried items in stock every day. This policy holds true even for an impulse item like candy. The most important consideration for candy is to ensure storage in temperature- and humidity-controlled areas to prevent damage.

“Store directors and their staffs do an exemplary job in maintaining the in-stock rate of their items. It would be advisable for each store to keep as many of the top-selling items as possible to maintain and grow sales.”

Among the top items that Small would classify as the candy equivalent of “never out of stock” are Hershey's chocolate bar (plain and almond); Snickers bar (single and six pack), Dove bagged chocolate; M&M's (peanut and milk chocolate); Reese's peanut butter cup (three separate SKUs); Butterfingers bar; Twix bar; Hershey's Kisses; Baby Ruth bar; York Peppermint Pattie; Nestlé Crunch bagged candy; and Schokoladé boxed chocolates.

   Sweet Tooth at the Candy Show

The All-Candy Expo, held May 20-22, at McCormick Place, Chicago Ill., was the major event in the candy industry this year, and the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's (AAFES) Senior Buyer for Retail Food Kathy Wulff and Buyer II-retail food Randal Demster, were on hand to see what was happening in the industry and learn how those changes could benefit AAFES patrons.

Kathy Wulff

During the event, Wulff was presented an Outstanding Achievement Award by Professional Candy Buyer magazine during a private reception on the Monday, preceding the All-Candy Expo. When E&C News spoke to Wulff prior to the event, she was optimistic about the department's fortunes in 2008, saying, “We expect a net sales increase — price increases aside — of 2 percent for fiscal 2008 and 4 percent for the holiday season.”

Randall Demster

In his new role on the AAFES Candy buying team, Demster had a number of observations to share about the show. “We saw many new items, such as Ghirardelli's new Milk Chocolate with Peanut Butter filling bar and Russell Stover's American Classic standup bag line, that we feel could help drive corporate goals and help keep the candy department fresh and exciting,” Demster said. “In regard to top sellers presenting in new packaging, we met with Mars Inc., and they are introducing M&M's in a premium format, in a box with upscale colors and flavors.”

There were other updates to traditional favorites. “The Jelly Belly Company plans on introducing Ice Cream Parlor flavors to their existing flavors. There will be five new flavors that will come in a variety of packaging, and AAFES intends to offer this assortment as a gift set for the holiday season.”

Demster explained that he feels that AAFES is “heading in the right direction to meet the unique need of military shoppers. We are taking action to increase our assortments in growth areas, such as sugarless gum and premium chocolates.”

With troops downrange combating heat and boredom, Demster had as a goal to seek “new items to freshen up the everyday stock assortment.”

"For troops on the job, a mouthwatering candy or familiar favorite bar is one of the rewards of shopping the exchange. New items help to “freshen up the everyday stock assortment,” said Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) Candy Buyer Randal Demster. Fort Detrick, Md.

How did he do? “We did find some new vendors. We're buying from Hospitality Mints and Cody Kramer Dutch Caramel Wafers, as well as specialty items from Elegant Gourmet and Sunny Seed Drop items from Sunflower Food and Spice Company, among others.”


“New” is also the buzzword for the holiday candy assortment. For older children approaching their teenage years, “We've included some fun High School Musical and Hannah Montana licensed items from Frankford that should appeal to tweens,” he said. “We're also buying Christmas novelty items for kids from Hilco and expect the same strong customer response that we saw to similar items at Easter. We'll also have a 40-oz. Whitman's Sampler in the assortment this year. It will make a fun, impressive gift.” Demster tells patrons to “look for the 40-oz. Whitman's Sampler and the Hershey's 5-lb. bar in our Christmas ads.”

   Full Communication Key to Making Candy Connection

The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) has been paying close attention to the various changes in taste in the candy market and thinking of new ways to anticipate and meet its customers' shopping preferences.

Amy Via

According to Amy Via, the exchange service's candy buyer, fiscal 2007 sales were $21.6 million, a 0.3-percent increase over fiscal 2006. For year-to-date 2008, sales are up 2.26 percent over last year. Via said that the 2008 plan for candy — $22.36 million — targets a similar trajectory with an increase of 3.5 percent over prior year.


NEXCOM ships its candy worldwide, said Via. The product is shipped either direct to store, or is cross-docked through its warehouses.

On the specifics, she said, “We are rolling out the McLane Company as the delivery agent for CONUS. Overseas locations, including Hawaii, are replenished direct from the vendor or military distributor into that location's warehouse.”

Keri Vierra

On the issue of managing candy inventories, Keri Vierra, NEXCOM candy planner and assistant to Via, said, “The candy department strives to maintain a 95-percent in-stock rate for all NEXCOM store locations. It is our expectation when serving our military families to provide a solid assortment, and to be sure we are in stock on the items when they shop our stores.”

She said that in order to properly manage candy inventory, “it is necessary to be proactive in setting a strong presentation and to ensure full communication with the buying and planning team at all times. By working together, we can guarantee optimal sales for the company, and optimal satisfaction for our customers.”


There are certain candy brands and items that are considered “never out of stock” — products that must always be on the shelf.

The premium assortment in Navy exchanges will be expanding in the upcoming months to help capitalize on the growing sales in the category.

Currently, the 20 top items that Via would classify as “never out of stock” are Snickers Single Bar; Snickers King-Size Bar; Planters Nut and Chocolate (6 oz.); M&M's Peanut Single; Reese's Miniatures (13 oz.); M&M's Peanut Candies (14 oz.); M&M's Peanut (21.3-oz laydown bag); Snickers Fun Size (11.18 oz.); and Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers (5-oz. bag).

Also, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (1.5 oz.); Planters Fruit and Nut Mix (6 oz.); Twizzlers Strawberry (16 oz.); M&M's Peanut Butter (12.7-oz. bag); Kit Kat Snack Size (10.78 oz.); Hershey Kisses (12 oz.); Twix Caramel Single Bar; Dove Smooth Rich Dark (9.5-oz. bag); Lindor Truffles (assorted 12-count bag); Dove Smooth Milk Chocolate (9.5-oz. bag); and Wrigley Orbit Wintermint (14 pieces).

   Dynamic Category: Pleasing Pets and Patrons

Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) stores have always committed themselves to meeting patron needs, and patrons' pets are no exception.

Linda Callery

The $108 million DeCA pet food and supplies category (which includes such items as leashes, bowls and toys) is the responsibility of buyer Linda Callery, who reported that the area has seen growth in leaps and bounds in the first half of DeCA's fiscal year

According to Callery, who spoke to E&C News in July, the year-to-date figure for fiscal 2008 is $67 million, compared to $57 million for the same period in fiscal 2007 — a remarkably robust 18-percent increase.

Last year, Callery told E&C News (9/07) about the efforts of manufacturers, distributors and DeCA in handling the March 2007 pet food recall. She said that, during this period, customers added alternative choices for their pets with natural, organic and fresh foods. Has the trend for these alternative food choices continued, grown or reversed? “I feel,” she said, “that most people have gone back to buying their original brands that their pets had been used to or traded up.”


... Callery explained, flexibility exists within the system to help stores respond to unique patron needs. “If a store indexes high in a commodity, we can allocate more space accordingly. Our stock assortment is tailored to what our customers are purchasing, by utilizing store data.” In the pet food category, she said what patrons respond to “varies from premium to health maintenance to value products.” She said stores also listen to “customer comments concerning products they would like to see us carry.”

DeCA Pets
Military servicemembers purchases of dog food comprised 1.5 percent of total scannable items recorded by The Nielsen Company in DeCA stores.
DeCA Pets
Rawhides and toys, Callery noted with an animal anology, “rule the roost in pet supplies.” NAS JRB Fort Worth, Texas.

From fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2007, the dog food category — the single largest pet category in DeCA stores — grew in sales from $62.9 million to $64.6 million. While this 2.66-percent increase is more modest than its cat food counterpart, those sales represent a higher share — 1.5 percent — of DeCA's total sales of scannable items in fiscal 2007, according to the Nielsen Co. It is also a higher share than that of total civilian CONUS — only dog food sales (0.92 percent), which may indicate that military servicemembers proportionately own more dogs than their civilian counterparts.


From fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2007, the cat food category grew in sales from $27.9 million to $29.3 million — a 5.07-percent increase (and a 0.68-percent share of DeCA's 2007 total, which is nearly identical to its CONUS civilian counterpart, viz., 0.66 percent).


Is there any message Callery would like to convey to store managers about the handling of the assortment? “We want to let our store directors and managers and their staff know that the job they do on a daily basis is appreciated by us, as well as our customers who come in through those doors each day. The workload at store level is immense, with new products coming and old ones going, changing packages, sizes, etc.

“It is a challenging but worthwhile effort that pays off by giving our patrons new and different choices. From building displays that promote the product to ensuring our customers are provided exceptional service, it's a team effort at store level, where the rubber meets the road.”

With gas prices soaring, Callery projects, pet food and supplies are “those strong commodities that will assist in making the commissary benefit 'Worth the Trip.'”

   Pet Area Rebounds with Differentiated Focus

With the transition to a focus on a differentiated core mass/specialty offering well underway, Army &Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) pet food and supplies sales have strengthened significantly during the first few months of fiscal 2008.

Bryan Calk

According to AAFES's pet category buyer Bryan Calk, prior to the category's turnaround in early 2008, sales for the total AAFES pet business were $31.7 million, a drop of approximately $1.3 million from the $33 million the department reported in fiscal 2006. This 3.9-percent dip “was a result of the pet food recalls that occurred in 2007,” Calk said.

The recall “affected the whole pet retail industry, not just AAFES,” Calk said. “We worked closely with our vendor partners to pull the recalled products from our shelves in a timely manner.”


In 2007 — as the recall was making headlines — AAFES was in the process of beginning a complete overhaul of the pet department, with a focus on core items. Calk said this transition is an ongoing one, stretching into fiscal 2008.

“We are continuing the transition to a mass/specialty offering that will differentiate AAFES's pet selection from those of grocery and big-box retailers,” Calk said. “We are offering better goods at a great value. Thus far, the response from our customers has proved that this was the right move. In addition, we keep patron interest by offering special buys throughout the year.”

AAFES's pet department assortment continues to transition toward a mass/specialty offering in an effort to differentiate itself from grocery and big-box formats. Fort Lee, Va.
Sales through May for AAFES's pet business are up 6 percent versus the prior year, which was in line with the exchange service's fiscal 2008 financial plan. Fort Lee, Va.

AAFES's top sellers include some of the most well-known brands and items in the industry. Calk said Hill's Science Diet “led the way” in AAFES stores during fiscal 2007, having six of the top 10 wet/moist dog food items and seven of the top 10 dry dog food items.

“Our value pricing on this high-quality product has made us a destination for Science Diet products,” Calk said.

Calk said Nestlé Purina supplied seven of the top 10 wet/moist cat food products during fiscal 2007 with its Friskies and Fancy Feast lines. Citing their popularity, Calk said, “These are name brands that our customers know and trust for their pets.”

During fiscal 2007, the buyer said the most popular dry cat food was split with three vendors — Hill's Science Diet, Nestlé Purina and Mars Pet Care — each having three items in the top 10 dry cat food category.

In addition, food products that have been formulated for a specific concern extended their popularity in fiscal 2007.

“Specialty food items make up roughly 16 percent of the overall pet food business,” Calk said. “This makes them an integral part of our pet food assortment — weight maintenance, hairball control, sensitive stomach, sensitive skin, oral care and senior pet products.”

The most popular specialty food items in the assortment include Hill's Science Diet Minced Light Adult Cat Food (3 oz.), which is the top unit seller, and Hill's Science Diet Lite Adult Dog Food (20 lbs.), the top seller by dollars.

As far as pet care items are concerned, Calk said products such as training pads and cat litter make up six of the top 10 items. In addition, toys and treats continue to grow, “and we have recently updated our department/class/subclass hierarchy to assist us in identifying and reacting to sales trends in these categories.”

   Navy Pets: Navigating Niche Markets

Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) stores pride themselves on their service to military families, a call of duty that also extends to those families' cuddliest members — pets!

The responsibility for pet supplies has recently passed to Diane Martinsen, buyer for Food & Pet, who succeeds Charles Phillips (see E&C News 8/08).

Diane Martinsen

Martinsen said fiscal 2007 sales were $8.2 million — an increase of 1.3 percent over prior year sales of $8.09 million. “We feel this is an acceptable increase,” she stated, “when you take into consideration last year's pet food recall.”

Year-to-date 2008 sales through June are $3.58 million, up 5.9 percent versus sales for the same period last year of $3.38 million. Martinsen said the overall performance year-to-date for pet food and supplies is “within our expectations.”

In 2007, manufacturers, distributors and NEXCOM, together, made great efforts dealing with the March-through-June pet food recall. Now, Martinsen believes things have settled back to normal. “We did incur some manufacturer deletes. We were also offered some replacement items.”


Assortment size remains the same, said Martinsen: 56 percent of sales generate from pet food, 44 percent from pet supplies. “Our niche market is premium dog food. We also do well with portable pet items such as housing and carriers. Another proven item would be puppy training pads.

Year-to-date 2008 pet food sales through June are $3.58 million, up 5.9 percent. 2007 sales for the same period were $3.38 million. NAB Little Creek, Va.
Fiscal 2007 sales were $8.2 million, while fiscal 2006 sales were $8.09 million — an increase of 1.3 percent. NAB Little Creek, Va.

The assortment of pet food items that suit a particular need has broadened, said the buyer. Items such as weight maintenance, sensitive skin and other enhanced quality-of-life products for pets continue to grow and expand within the assortments.

Martinsen reported that the top 10 pet food SKUs for the past year, in order of sales, were: Pedigree Mealtime Small Bites (20-lbs., bag); Science Diet Canine Light (20-lbs., dry); Canine Adult (44-lbs., dry); Science Diet Canine Small Bites Adult (20 lbs.); Purina Beneful (17.5 lbs.); Science Diet Canine Small Bite Adult (40 lbs.); Mealtime Small Bites (44 lbs.); Science Diet Canine Adult (20 lbs., dry); Pedigree Dry Mealtime Small Bites (8.8 lbs.) and Science Diet Canine Maintenance L&R (20 lbs., dry).


The buyer said that the top 20 pet accessory and treat items for the past year, in order of sales, were: Smokehouse Piggy Chew (20-pack); Kennel Wire XL (42 in. x 28 in. x 31 in.); Sky Kennel Vault Door X-Large; Sky Kennel Medium/Grey; Kennel Wire (34 in. x 24 in. x 27 in.); Sky Kennel Vault Door/Large; Fresh Step Scoop Litter (28 lbs.); Furminator Medium Deshedding Tool; Sky Kennel Small/Grey; Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Litter (21 lbs.)

   Packed and Ready for Back to School
Tom WilmothBeverly Calloway

Stationery, including school and office supplies, continues to be a solid sales generator for Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) stores, according to Divisional Merchandise Manager (DMM) Tom Wilmoth, who handles stationery items, and buyer Beverly Calloway, who handles writing instruments and basic Back-To-School (BTS) items. The category has seen some interesting developments in merchandising, replenishment, and assortment, with increased use of floor-ready shippers; close work with AAFES Planning, Allocation and Replenishment (PAR) teams; and the addition of new items to the shelves, some of which have an earth-friendly bent.


Wilmoth reported that stationery and school and office supplies sales, boosted by a solid holiday season, finished fiscal 2007 up 2.4 percent at $41.3 million. Prior to the holiday surge, sales through November 2007 were up 1.8 percent.

Year-to-date 2008 figures through February were $15.5 million, indicating further growth of 2.6 percent.

Wilmoth said that AAFES stores carry a wide variety of stationery items to suit just about any need. “Generally speaking, our assortment is 75 percent BTS — basics, like pens, pencils, binders — and 25 percent home office items, scrapbooks and accessories,” he said.

The DMM said that among the most popular items in this assortment are gel pens; permanent markers and marker sets; highlighters; binders; scissors and other classroom tools; writing instruments, including pencils, technical pens and pencils; and what he characterized as “young children's needs,” including crayons, craft paper, and glue sticks.

He said that among the key brands in these categories are Crayola (markers, colored pencils and crayons), Elmer's (glue and glue sticks), Mead, Paper Mate (stick pens); Sanford, Bic (pens and highlighters), Fiskars and Avery.

AAFES Stationery
“We're committed to using the Store Communications tool much better this year, which will give the stores a constant roadmap to a successful BTS,” said Manager Tom Wilmoth. Fort Lee, Va.
AAFES Stationery
Stationery and school supplies finished fiscal 2007 up 2.4 percent with $41.3 million in activity. Fort Lee, Va.

The most popular period of the year for stationery and related sales is BTS, which takes place during the July-August two-month time frame. Wilmoth said that early planning helps to make this period a productive one in exchange service stores.

“BTS planning was completed on March 1,” he said. “The majority of one-time-buy dollars went into our direct import program, which will be 100-percent PDQ displays priced to sell and totally color coordinated.”

Wilmoth said that PDQ displays refer to floor-ready displayers, shipped already packed with merchandise, that are specifically for categories with short selling seasons.

The 2008 direct import program, he continued, consists of key items, priced sharp with great margins that are being shipped in color-coordinated PDQ displayers.

During the BTS period, and throughout the year, the ability of the exchanges to have the right item on hand at the right time is a challenge that needs to be addressed on a daily basis. AAFES's PAR team is tasked with ensuring that the exchange service's stores are properly stocked.

“PAR responsibilities have been clearly defined and are currently being implemented,” Wilmoth said. “The PAR team works initially with the buyer to build the plan. Once the buyer finalizes this plan, the PAR team once again takes over, to replenish the stores and the distribution centers.”

   High-Velocity Sales and Supply
Lisa McCollum-Artis

According to Lisa McCollum-Artis the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) assistant buyer for office and school supplies, the exchange service is targeting a sales goal for 2008 of $15.1 million.

Helping it reach that mark in the current fiscal year will be many of the traditional patron favorite purchases augmented by a selection of new items.

In 2007, the top sellers were integrated shipper/displays and PDQ displays, which NEXCOM brought in from Avery, Quartet and Sanford, among others. “We purchased three different displays vehicles from Sanford that housed assorted writing instruments, two different display vehicles from Avery that housed binders/dividers, and a dry-erase boards display from Quartet. Each of these display vehicles proved to work well for our stores,” McCollum-Artis said.

Navy exchange patrons have also been responsive to contemporary environmental concerns and the “buying green” trend. McCollum-Artis said, “We carry earth-friendly product in our stores. Acid-free products are a must in our scrapbooking category. We also carry recycled computer paper.” Do they worry that “buying green” is a passing fad? “We feel earth-friendly product will become more popular as long as prices remain affordable.”

NEXCOM Stationery
As busy as the Back-to-School period is, the NEXCOM stationery area does almost as well, if not better, during the holidays according to Assistant Buyer Lisa McCollum-Artis.

McCollum-Artis noted “several high-velocity items that are classified 'never be out of stock.'” The top-selling items are the Pilot G-2 gel pen; 2-pack black ballpoint pen; black Sharpie marker; Avery Dennison yellow highlighter; Avery Dennison 1-inch vinyl binder; Acme 5-inch soft-handle pointed scissors; Rose Art 24-count crayons; and Rose Art washable school glue.

Among the hot trends and new products that might affect the school and office supplies area in 2008, the buyer believes, are new movie releases, which typically help drive specific themes. “During our 2008 Back-to-School (BTS) season, you will see action heroes, which will include some of the following: Indiana Jones and Speed Racer. Other popular themes you will see are Hannah Montana and High School Musical.”

As busy as the BTS period is, the exchange stationery area does almost as well, if not better, during the holidays. “We are looking to do extremely well,” said McCollum-Artis, “with gift wrap, ribbon, bows and gift bags. We are also looking to do well with our mailing centers, which include boxes, bubble wrap, envelopes, etc.”


McCollum-Artis noted “several high-velocity items that are classified 'never be out of stock.'” The top-selling items are the Pilot G-2 gel pen; 2-pack black ballpoint pen; black Sharpie marker; Avery Dennison yellow highlighter; Avery Dennison 1-inch vinyl binder; Acme 5-inch soft-handle pointed scissors; Rose Art 24-count crayons; and Rose Art washable school glue.

   New Trends, Formats Strengthen Sales

The stationery assortment in the Marine Corps Exchanges (MCX) saw an increase in sales activity during early fiscal 2008. With the summer Back-to-School period projected to be strong, the exchange service is looking to the category for another successful sales year.

Karen Macdonald

Karen Macdonald, MCX consumables buyer, reported that MCX stationery sales during fiscal 2007 were $2.81 million compared to $2.77 million in fiscal 2006, a 1.5-percent increase.

Sales got off to a roaring start in the first few months of the year. Macdonald said that stationery had produced $217,331 in activity through February, compared to $190,819 during the same period a year earlier, representing a 13.9-percent increase. These increases reflect and include the reopening of three MCX exchanges — MCB Quantico, Va., MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., and MCAS Miramar, Calif. — all of which went through major renovations during the preceding year.

According to the buyer, the 2008 sales plan for this category is $3.16 million, which if realized, will represent growth of 12.3 percent.

MCX Stationery
Crayons add color to the MCX stationery assortment, which increased sales by 1.5 percent during fiscal 2007. MCB Quantico, Va.
MCX Stationery
Traditional stationery items continue to generate significant sales activity at MCX stores. MCB Quantico, Va.

Whether at a larger store or a smaller one, certain stationery items stand out as the department's top sellers. The MCX carries the latest items from the most well-known stationery companies, as well as private label and National Industries for the Blind (NIB) items.

“The very basics, or those items that the Marines use in the course of their normal day-to-day operations, continue to drive this category,” said Macdonald.

During fiscal 2007, the exchange service's top-selling stationery product was the 3M Scotch Tear-By-Hand Packing Tape (1.88 in. by 38.2 yard), which sold 63,469 units and generated $273,033 in sales.

This was followed by a private label item — a protractor/square rule, which sold 14,110 units and produced $52,913 in sales — and Bic Round Stic Black Pens (10-pack), which sold 31,696 units and amassed $47,093 in sales.


The buyer said this fashion trend — which is directed at younger clientele — will be a major focus of the MCX's 2008 Back-To-School (BTS) program.

“This particular trend can be found most in our Back-to-School timeframe assortments,” Macdonald said, adding that the trend ties into the increasingly popularity of this July-August period, when students from kindergarten through college — and their parents — prepare for the coming school year.

“Back-To-School continues to be a big draw for MCX,” the buyer said. “Sales for 2007 were $549,019 compared to $505,353 the previous year,” amounting to an 8.6-percent gain. “We are planning similar increases for 2008 during BTS,” she noted.

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