ECN CoverE&C Commissary News

Editorial Comment — April 2019

Team Resale …

Team Resale: Exchanges, commissaries, manufacturers, distributors, brokers … working together to achieve a common goal: to protect the commissary benefit, to enhance the exchange benefit, and to keep the morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) dividend strong.

The roster’s motto: Cooperate. Coordinate. Collaborate. And bring back the patrons.

A few months ago, a new and exciting development: five resale agencies signed a memorandum of understanding to stand up a buying alliance. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), Marine Corps Exchange (MCX), Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) and Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) agreed to share common data, market intelligence and trend information and combine their buying power.

It’s too soon to tell how great an impact the alliance will have on cutting shelf prices, improving stock assortments and strengthening the resale benefit; but this simple step could, by drawing on the combined expertise of current exchange and commissary subject matter experts, save a bundle otherwise potentially earmarked for outside consultants. The result could be millions of dollars in additional funds to support MWR programs and activities. In any case, the expectation is that the alliance will help multiply customer footprints and increase lagging sales.

For DeCA, at least part of the solution to reversing declining sales boils down to keeping the shelves stocked. Over the last couple of years, sharp focus has been placed on the long supply chain as photos of empty shelves appeared more and more frequently on commissary Facebook posts. And the finger has often been pointed at the last link in chain, perhaps not always justifiably, making the shelf-stocker the scapegoat.

The value of vendor stocking in the commissary, not a common business practice, has been underestimated, and there are many changes in the chain along the way that could cause the outages.

But it’s up to DeCA to fix the problem, to either fund it directly, taking a big bite out of reduced taxpayer funding, or come to terms with the firms that have been handling the service for decades, and allow industry to help solve the problem, tearing down at least some of the wall that has been building in the recent past. Current tests may prove helpful, but perhaps expanding testing to try more than one model at a time might be more valuable.

Manufacturers, those of you who have lost faith in resale (most likely, rightfully so) … please come on back; military families need you now more than ever.

Distributors, work on that extra push to bring those fill rates up into the high 90s.

Brokers, you have been walking a very fine line trying to maintain a friendly working relationship between your principals and the commissaries under pressure to transform. Reopen your closets and unlock the treasure chests of rejected ideas to see which ones might still be able to fly.

Marketers and merchandisers, keep those playbooks handy. Valentine’s Day has replaced the Big Game. Presidents Day has replaced Valentine’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day, March Madness and Vietnam War Veterans Day, Easter and Passover have come and gone, and the Month of the Military Child is just about over — but Military Family Month, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Graduation Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner.

We may have missed Ben Franklin Day, World Radio Day, Puppy Day, Jelly Bean Day and Pretzel Day … but there are many days of opportunity ahead.

There may be sales surges and sales slumps, but there’s no off-season for Team Resale.

So Team Resale, it’s time for the next play. Hit the field … take the court … play ball!

To receive your own advance copy of the EandC News editorial each month,