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.


 
 

 

SAPR: More than just an Air Force acronym

As an Airman and a senior leader in the Air Force Reserve, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impacts of sexual assault on an Air Force organization. Regardless of your unit or military status, Active or Reserve, no one is immune to these impacts nor absolved of their responsibility to combat the instances of sexual assault...
 
 

The Judge Advocate General’s Corps announces law school programs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) — Officers interested in continuing to serve the Air Force as a judge advocate are able to apply to the Funded Legal Education Program, or FLEP, and the Excess Leave Program, ELP. Officers selected for FLEP have the opportunity to attend law school at the Air Force’s expense while...
 
 

Changes to academic degree and developmental education expectations

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AFNS) — Air Force officials announced actions designed to set clear expectations, restore Airman’s time and refocus officer promotions on job performance. The Air Force has addressed long-standing perceptions that to be promoted, officers must complete an advanced academic degree, and those officers selected by a promotion board to attend developmental education in-res...
 

 

82 F-16Ds removed from flight status due to cracks

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — U.S. Air Force officials recently removed 82 two-seat F-16D Fighting Falcons from flight status due to the discovery of canopy sill longeron cracks found between the front and rear pilot seats. The cracks were discovered following an immediate action time compliance technical order, or TCTO, to inspect all F-16D due to initial...
 
 

Who receives your SGLI proceeds – your spouse or your former spouse?

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON — Payment from a Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance policy may be the largest sum of money that your family receives if you die while on active duty. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your SGLV 8286 form – the SGLI Election and Certificate – is accurate and up to date....
 
 

Tobacco use harms military readiness, official says

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Because tobacco use is harmful to military readiness, the Defense Department has an added responsibility to curb its use, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said today, noting that service members are more likely to use tobacco products than civilians. Tobacco use can lead to excess oral cavity disease and...
 




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