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Editorial Comment — September 2017

The Way Forward …

The world around us has recently seen so much upheaval, crisis and devastation in such a short period of time that it is difficult to comprehend.

Many in the small, wide world of military resale — servicemembers, associates, workers, vendors, headquarters staff — have been affected over the last few weeks by hurricanes, wildfires, floods, even earthquakes. Some have had to clear away debris and mop up; some may have to rebuild.

Our hearts and prayers are with them; and the military resale system can take some measure of pride in fulfilling its mission, providing survival support for those military families involved.

Now, it’s time for everyone to stop; take a few long, deep breaths; and look to the future, resisting the temptation to dwell on the past. The past can’t be changed, not even its most recent events.

But the effects of the past upon the course of the future can be altered, if enough is learned from those events.

Military resale must look ahead, with clear and perceptive vision, and detailed reports of lessons learned, to regroup or rebuild as needed. Whether commissary or exchange, separate or all together, the problem of how to compete with what is going on outside the perimeter — with Aldi, Amazon, Lidl, superstores of every ilk, resurging dollar stores, price wars and ecommerce — presents a mountain of challenge.

Can resale confront and prevail over all of these business models on their own terms? The simple answer: No.

Especially not all at once.

But resale can change direction, finding fresh approaches to problems both old and new. Above all, it must find ways for its separate elements to work together in order for all to flourish. There have been great challenges before — Walmart, for example — but the military resale systems persevered despite the odds, reaching record revenues at the time and delivering record dividends to family and morale, welfare and recreation programs.

Military families, especially at times like this, still very much need the support of their exchanges and commissaries ... and all the myriad supplies and services that these multi-faceted organizations bring to the table in military community, family and mission support.

What is needed is for all the resale services to sit down and work out a comprehensive plan — one that will bring back the patrons, sustain the benefit and allow military resale to operate on its own without “outside interference” from contractors.

What will it take to bring that about?

It will not be easy. The struggle may be great and the cost may be considerable, but …

Weigh that against what it will take to provide the same level of services, support and benefit — to develop the same level of family readiness — if the military resale agencies do not survive.

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