Commissaries, exchanges to offer more joint sales

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FORT LEE, Va. – Service members and their families will soon see more joint sales promotions for commissaries and exchanges that highlight the savings and value of shopping on military installations.

Starting in April, with promotions linked to the Month of the Military Child, on-post resale outlets will maximize partnership opportunities outlined during a marketing conference hosted by the Defense Commissary Agency last month at Fort Lee, Virginia.

“There’s a huge symbiotic relationship with the exchange and the commissary,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, DeCA’s interim director and CEO. Bianchi is also dual-hatted as the director of the Navy Exchange Command.

“People who make those shopping trips tend to shop both locations,” Bianchi added. “Our goal is to pursue joint marketing opportunities to let our service members and their families know that their best option to save money is by shopping on the installation.”

During the marketing conference, senior marketing representatives from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, DeCA, the Marine Corps Exchange, NEXCOM and the Coast Guard Exchange discussed ways to partner on promotional planning for the rest of 2018 and shared ideas on improving communication of on-base shopping benefits to military patrons.

With more than 90 percent of its authorized patrons living within 20 miles of the commissary and exchange, both entities have a vested interest to increase awareness of military retail benefits and ensure authorized patrons see on-base shopping as their primary means to save money, said Ana Middleton, president and chief marketing officer for AAFES.

“The commissary drives traffic to the exchanges, and in turn, the exchanges generate dividends for quality-of-life programs that the military exchanges support,” Middleton said. “If shoppers buy groceries off-installation and not at the commissary, they won’t shop the exchanges as often.

“We are all committed to do our part to provide commissary and exchange benefits,” Middleton added. “As seen by the recent success of expanded acceptance of the MILITARY STAR card at the commissary, our patrons’ exchange and commissary benefits can be significantly strengthened when we collaborate to achieve efficiencies that benefit the entire military community.”

In the past, commissaries and exchanges have collaborated on events such as case lot sales, sidewalk sales and the annual Healthy Lifestyle Festival.

In December, DeCA and NEXCOM collaborated on a bounce-back coupon promotion at eight Navy installations. DeCA and AAFES also worked together on a holiday STAR card sweepstakes and a joint social media campaign that encouraged patrons to shop commissaries and exchanges.

These partnership initiatives are a sample of the daily cooperation between the services when it comes to military retail, a collaboration that best serves patrons who shop on the installation, said Jennifer Wible, chief operating officer for the Marine Corps Exchange.

“The base is an interdependent community, and we need to leverage the synergies between exchanges, Morale Welfare and Recreation activities and commissaries to meet the needs of our military families,” Wible said. “The marketing conference was a great opportunity to elevate a holistic discussion of partnership at a more strategic level.”

The major initiative from the conference was a joint 2018 marketing plan with the first event being the MILITARY STAR card “Fill Your Fridge for Free” sweepstakes. For this promotion, patrons who use their STAR card twice at the exchange and twice at the commissary from April 1-30 are automatically entered for a chance to win a $300 commissary gift card.

Patrons can also expect to see other joint events such as customer appreciation sidewalk sales linked to Military Appreciation Month in May; the annual Healthy Lifestyle Festival in June; and Back to School sidewalk sales in August and September.

These joint efforts reinforce the importance of promoting “a vibrant military community, one that promotes on-base retail shopping destinations as well as value-added services and entertainment options,” said Richard Honiball, NEXCOM’s chief merchandising and marketing officer.

“Customers equate value today not just with saving money, but also saving time, and getting something extra, an experience in the process,” he added. “For our patrons, the base is quite literally their city. So while they’re on the installation, if a family can get their groceries at a saving, shop for a new TV or pair of athletic shorts, grab some lunch, all while getting their car serviced and maybe catch a movie saving time and money, that is value.”

Improving the installation shopping experience through shared marketing efforts is a definite plus for military patrons as they seek to use their commissary and exchange benefits, said Hector Granado, DeCA’s director of marketing.

“It is imperative in today’s competitive retail environment that the entirety of the services offered on the installations be coordinated and offered to our military community in a manner that will keep them shopping and enjoying all that military retail has to offer,” Granado said. “We are committed to working together to ensure that our retail system stays strong and viable for our service members and their families who’ve earned these benefits.”