Air Force

October 18, 2012

Commissaries to offer new innovations, conveniences

Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The new commissary rewards card now offered at all 247 military commissaries worldwide offers a glimpse into what the Defense Commissary Agency is working to provide its customers: the same selection, conveniences and quality as the most popular commercial grocery store chains, but even better customer service and lower prices.

That’s the vision of Joseph H. Jeu, who took the helm of what amounts to the nation’s 11th-largest grocery story chain a year and a half ago and is steering into new waters to provide patrons what he calls the “Commissary Benefit 2020” — the most advanced commissary service they’ve ever experienced.

“We have to pay attention to what happens in the private sector, know the trends and be sure we are right along with them or maybe, in some ways, ahead of them,” Jeu told American Forces Press Service. “We want to be equal or better.”

By many standards, military commissaries are already there, he noted. Patrons rated commissaries at 4.72 on a scale of 5 on a recent commissary customer satisfaction survey. In the industrywide American Customer Satisfaction Index, commissaries ranked 81 — six points above the industry average of 76. Only one commercial grocery chain scored higher.

Jeu attributes some of that success to the fact that military family members, retirees and veterans make up 64 percent of the commissary workforce. “When two-thirds of your workforce is military related, it means we understand who our customers are and what they are going through,” he said. “It says, ‘We care and appreciate what you do.’”

But Jeu acknowledged that the biggest attraction commissaries offer boils down to price. Selling products at 5 percent over cost, with the surcharge invested directly into new construction, renovation and equipment upgrades, commissaries typically save shoppers about 32 percent compared to civilian supermarkets. Savings are even higher in some high-cost areas, such as Hawaii, where commissary shoppers typically save about 50 percent.

Looking ahead, Jeu is exploring new ways to maximize consumer savings without increasing the $1.4 billion subsidy Congress authorizes to operate the commissaries.

For example, the new commissary rewards card allows shoppers to download coupons directly onto the card and redeem them at checkout. Fort Lee, Va., home of the Defense Commissary Agency, served as a test bed for the cards in August, and as of early this month, they’re available at every commissary worldwide.

Jeu said he’s been amazed at how well the cards have been received, even among coupon-savvy commissary shoppers who typically rank within the top three among the nation’s top coupon clippers. About half of those who received a card went online to register it into the system so they could begin using it.

“That’s a very high rate of acceptance,” Jeu said. “This is a service our customers very clearly accept.”

Another idea in the works is the opening of warehouse stores that offer even deeper discounts by selling products in bulk.

Jeu is eyeing regions with multiple commissaries — Virginia’s Tidewater area, San Antonio and San Diego, among them — with hopes of converting one traditional commissary into a “box store.” The first could happen sometime next year.

In addition to bulk items, each warehouse store will sell meat, produce, deli and bakery goods, but with a smaller selection than at traditional commissaries, he explained.

Meanwhile, recognizing a growing trend in the commercial grocery industry, DECA is exploring ways to connect with and serve its customers using online technology and smartphones. In a test started about a year ago at Fort Lee, commissary customers can order a customized deli sandwich online, then pick it up at the store.

Now Jeu wants to expand the concept to allow customers to preorder groceries online, then arrive at the commissary to find their order packed and ready for pickup. DECA plans to test the curbside pickup plan from Mondays to Fridays beginning in the spring at Fort Lee and possibly one or two other commissaries to see how shoppers like it.

“I believe it will be successful, and if it is, we will expand it to other stores,” Jeu said.

Also using online technology, DECA plans to extend its services to more parts of the country with large populations of reserve and National Guard members, but no commissaries. That initiative, started on the West Coast in 2008, enables reserve-component members to preorder and prepay electronically from a selection of several hundred items, most sold in bulk. Trucks arrive at a designated site with the orders packed and ready for pickup.

During the last fiscal year, DECA staged more than 100 of these onsite sales. “It worked out pretty well,” Jeu said. “We definitely want to do more of that.”

Recognizing how comfortable its customers, particularly younger ones, have become with smart phone technology, DECA plans to branch out into what industry refers to as “mobile commerce.” A new app to be introduced soon will provide generic information about store locations and hours and sales promotions.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Air Force not planning Involuntary Force Reductions in 2015

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. – The modern Air Force is “feeling some strain” recently, due to its shrinking size and high operations tempo, but there won’t be any more involuntary force-shaping in 2015, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said today. James said she and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark...
 
 

Commissary Rewards Card helps patrons save

FORT LEE, Va. – Customers looking to save even more than the usual 30 percent on their groceries can reach for their personal plastic: the Commissary Rewards Card. The Defense Commissary Agency’s digital coupon redemption system allows commissary patrons to access and clip coupons and store them on their card to be scanned at the...
 
 

Air Force Band performs holiday flash mob

CHANTILLY, Va. — ‘Tis the season where friends and family come together over a bountiful spread of food and drink — the time of year where gifts are exchanged and memories and traditions are made. But it is also the time of year when the U.S. Air Force Band surprises the world with another musical...
 

 

Identifying, Refining, and Strengthening

The 355th Fighter Wing practiced their ability to survive and operate under simulated conventional, chemical and biological conditions during an operational readiness exercise, Dec. 9-12. “The objective is to identify weaknesses, refine processes, strengthen decision making and force the Airmen to think outside of the box,” said Lt. Col. James Roy, 355th FW Inspector General....
 
 

SrA and below EPR static closeout date to be March 31

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Enlisted evaluation and promotion changes, announced in July, continue with establishment of a March 31 enlisted performance report static closeout date (SCOD) for Regular Air Force (RegAF) senior airmen and below, Air Force Personnel Center officials said Dec. 5. Additionally, change of reporting official evaluations (CRO) have been...
 
 

Master sergeant evaluation board, SNCO promotion changes coming

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force continues the phased implementation of its Enlisted Evaluation System and Weighted Airman Promotion System (WAPS) changes with the convening of a master sergeant evaluation board scheduled for May 2015. Evaluation and promotion system changes, scheduled for implementation over the next 16 months for active-duty Airmen, are focused on ensuring job perfor...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin