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More Military Shoppers Using Their Commissary Benefit

FORT LEE, Va., April 5, 2012 – More military members and their families are using their commissary benefit than any time since fiscal 1997 as they seek to counter the effects of rising prices on groceries and other household goods. The Defense Commissary Agency recorded more than 96 million transactions in fiscal 2011 – just one of many signs that the commissary benefit has continued to grow and evolve to meet the needs of its customers.

Because commissaries sell at cost and negotiate the best possible prices for the products they sell, commissary shoppers saved almost $2.8 billion on their purchases in fiscal 2011. And coupon-friendly policies allowed shoppers to earn more than $110 million in additional savings at the commissary, which has been consistently ranked in the top 10 for retailers that redeem the most coupons.

Commissaries achieved these savings for customers while still collecting a 5 percent surcharge on every commissary purchase, which is required by Congress to pay for building replacement stores, renovating and repairing existing stores, and purchasing equipment. In fiscal 2011, DeCA collected more than $300 million in surcharge funds; these funds helped support the opening of a new store at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans and a large renovation project at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., among other initiatives.

On-site sales expand reach of benefit

DeCA brings "commissaries on wheels" to Guard and Reserve installations to expand the reach of the commissary benefit for geographically remote military families in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Guam. These events, known as Guard and Reserve on-site sales, allow any authorized customer to enjoy the same level of savings available at the commissary. In fiscal 2011 alone, on-site events generated more than $7.8 million in sales, saving customers nearly $3.6 million.

DeCA also deployed technology to improve its customers' shopping experiences and achieve greater efficiencies. By the end of fiscal 2011, the agency had installed electronic shelf labels in 82 of its stores, with 98 still to go. These shelf labels allow commissaries to change thousands of prices wirelessly on a biweekly basis, freeing up employees for other tasks and virtually eliminating price discrepancies at the register. DeCA also added a reusable bag button to its self-checkout registers so customers could use reusable bags there without requiring cashier intervention.

Gift card program new in 2011

The agency deployed its new gift card program in 2011, selling more than 98,000 of the cards in the first 6 months. Cards are available in commissaries and online in $25 and $50 denominations, and can be used in any military commissary worldwide. Only authorized commissary customers may redeem the cards, but anyone is allowed to purchase them and give the gift of groceries to a military family.

Now that a new year has begun, DeCA is continuing to look for new ways to improve service to customers. Because 63 percent of commissary employees have either served in the military or are related to someone who has, they understand the needs of military shoppers and work every day to build a better benefit for them, said Joseph Jeu, DeCA director and CEO.

"Our customers have told us time and again that the commissary is their most important nonpay military benefit," Jeu said. "Supporting our military family is the primary motivation in everything we do."

About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings amounting to thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.

Media Contact:
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773

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