Defense Commissary Agency Sales Director Tracie Russ
Weekly staff meetings plus a smarter reallocation of category manager responsibilities, plus new ideas from store level, standardized category review processes, customer insights, and an innovative new program called “Communities of Practice,” are just a few of the Defense Commissary Agency’s (DeCA) Sales Directorate’s recent initiatives that taken together, target a more satisfying shopping experience for DeCA patrons.
In this exclusive interview, Defense Commissary Agency sales director Tracie Russ — who has been a part of commissaries’ evolution into a state-of-the-art grocery benefit since the days of the Air Force Commissary Service (AFCOMS), one of DeCA’s predecessor organizations — shares her bold perspective on how these and other programs promise to improve the value of the benefit for patrons, not just in 2015 but also in the years to come.
E and C News: What are your observations on the new DeCA Sales Directorate and Marketing Business Unit?
Tracie Russ: I see an organized, not re-organized, fully-functioning team(s) working from the same sheet of music, striving every day to negotiate the very best savings for our military customer, as well as orchestrating a new, streamlined process that has improved DeCA’s method of doing business with our industry partners.
By increasing the number of category managers, we have been able to decrease the number of products/companies/brokers that each manager works with, which allows them more time to focus on our monthly themes, promotional pricing, manager’s specials, club packs, and industry negotiations.
Our business rapport with our industry partners
has improved greatly, offering them more time for
presentations, working further out for efficient planning
purposes, and also giving DeCA more time
to study industry trends, pricing on the
outside, and also research comparable
sales and advertising. ...
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CATEGORY COMMENT: YOGURT
Dairy’s Most Versatile Category — Protein Power, Savings Power, Holding Power
With a new yogurt planogram deploying this month, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) is rebooting its yogurt category assortment with a view to wider and stronger patron appeal, greater sales, and improved holding power on the shelf.
Asked about the Yogurt category’s current direction in commissaries, several resale suppliers spoke with E and C News. Among them were Scott O’Toole, business planning manager, Chill and Frozen, General Mills; Michael Stewart, president, Mid Valley Products; and Keith Smith, chief operating officer (COO), Elite Brands.
With DeCA’s most recent yogurt category review now completed, O’Toole of General Mills said he believed DeCA Dairy Category Manager Steve Villeneuve is aiming to provide “the right assortment and the right holding power on the shelf … right now the category is pretty solid,” he said.
Discussing opportunities for further growth in the category, Mid Valley’s Stewart pointed to statistics from EuroMonitor showing that U.S. consumers still eat only about one-quarter as much yogurt as consumers do in Europe. However, he said, “From 2009 to 2013, U.S. consumption of yogurt on a total cup basis has increased 53 percent.” ...
Jerky, long a stalwart of the packaged meat snacks subcategory, is not only popular in military stores but also out-indexes versus jerky sales outside the gate.
It’s no surprise then that Marines, in particular, fit squarely into the demographic of those who gravitate toward this type of snack. And with younger servicemembers spending more time on base, their local Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) store is often not just the go-to destination for such purchases, but a vital resource in helping Marines maintain their energy levels and speed of recovery during a tough day of training.
“The highest-indexing meat snack customer is 18-to-45 years old with 55 percent being male, active, on the go, and health conscious to some degree,” noted Ashley Davis, the MCX’s food category buyer. ...