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Editorial Comment — March 2016

70 Years of Service …

The year was 1946.

World War II was in the rearview mirror, and servicemembers, who had returned home in droves after the war, were beginning to make their mark as they reintegrated into civilian life, building suburbia and setting off the Baby Boom.

Born that year were George W. Bush (July 6) and Bill Clinton (Aug. 19), as well as Donald Trump (June 14). And Dolly Parton. Steven Spielberg. Cher.

It was a big year for retailers in America. Appetites that had been held in check by wartime rationing and the economy’s focus on the war effort were unleashed; pent-up consumer demand re-energized merchants, and new sales concepts flourished.

The average cost of a new car was less than $1,400 (with gas at 21 cents a gallon); Tupperware started to be sold in department and hardware stores; microwave ovens and bikini swimsuits appeared on retailers’ shelves for the very first time.

The year was also an important one in military resale. A committee headed by Macy’s CEO Wheelock H. Bingham, a Supply Corps captain in the Navy Reserve, recommended that all Navy retail operations aboard ship and shore-side retail locations merge into one Navy Resale System, operated like a large store chain overseen by one central office. In 1946, the committee’s recommendations led to the creation of the Navy Ship’s Store Office, the precursor to today’s Navy Exchange Service Command.

While Navy Exchanges can trace their roots back to the beginning of the nation more than 200 years ago, when Sailors had to buy their personal items from “bumboats” that pulled alongside their ships in port, and later from “slop chests” set up aboard ship by the crew themselves when the bumboats proved unsatisfactory, they have evolved through many changes in appearance and organization to become the model 21st-century retail dynamos they are today. And no matter what acronym the headquarters office has adopted — from the early NSSO, NRSO, NAVRESO and NAVRESSO to today’s NEXCOM — they have continued to serve Sailors and their families, active duty, reserves and retirees alike, uninterrupted for 70 years officially on April 1.

In its early days on the Brooklyn waterfront, headquarters kept its focus clear in a sign posted at the exit, where all — vendors, employees and those in uniform as well — could see: “What have you done for the Sailor today?” The Navy Resale System’s headquarters may have moved since then, but its heart is still in the same place, and its spirit remains intact.

Today, from basic needs to fashionable apparel, from home goods and stand-alone TVs to marvels of interconnected digital technology, from personal grooming services to food courts, local NEXCOM stores are there to offer these products and services — and many, many more — to their clientele. With 100 exchanges, more than 130 ships stores ashore and afloat, more than three dozen Navy Lodges and hundreds of other retail and service outlets, NEXCOM’s reach is far and wide, fulfilling its mission of bringing superior service and support to the Navy family wherever it may be stationed around the world, on water or on land.

The Navy Exchange has come a long way from its early days, we’re told by NEXCOM’s CEO, retired Supply Corps Rear Admiral Robert J. Bianchi: “From bumboats and slop chests to a world-class retail business, NEXCOM delivers what our Navy families need, wherever they are stationed,” he notes. “While our look may have changed over the years, our mission and commitment to PREMIER customer service has not; and that is evident each and every day at each and every location.”

To that, we can add only one thing:

Bravo Zulu, NEXCOM!

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