Groups worry historic commissary reforms could fail
WASHINGTON — Commissary-brand pasta sauce or breakfast cereal? It could be a reality for military shoppers next year.
New products with commissary labels along with new pricing on staples such as bananas, milk and soda are set to begin hitting store shelves in May. About 1,000 new items will be rolled out by the end of 2017.
The changes will mean new choices and some deals for shoppers. But they also signal a profound transformation of commissaries behind the scenes – a shift that groups representing troops and manufacturers worry could fail and imperil the on-base supermarkets.
Commissaries will for the first time try to make a profit by selling to military shoppers as part of a new business model being rolled out to save the global chain of 238 stores, which has seen falling sales for four years straight and is facing increasing pressure to slash its budget.
“Without lower commissary operating costs, we believe the future of the benefit is at risk,” Chris Burns, executive director for business transformation at the Defense Commissary Agency, said in a statement to Stars and Stripes.
The agency’s solution is to begin operating like off-base competitors such as Walmart and Albertsons to cover its $1.4 billion annual funding. That means aggressively pressing manufacturers to reduce costs, introducing a wide range of its own products and shifting prices at the local level.
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