From the desk of the ALA President

Elections have consequences (for resale programs as well) and the Senate, Presidency too close to call.  Results are still coming in, but the House will stay Democratic ensuring little change in the structure and outlook of the House Defense committees that develop policy and fund commissaries and exchanges while retirements and moves by members of Congress will shuffle the deck on who’s in charge at the subcommittee level.  We probably won’t know how this shakes out until the House caucuses in December and January.   The Senate and the Presidency is too close to call.  We’ll have an assessment of the implications of the election on resale programs and policy as results clarify.  The implications include the restationing of forces in Europe, funding for DoD, Administration personnel and quality of life policy, outcome of the Stimulus II bill that includes $1.4 billion in funding for exchange and MWR pandemic relief, the state of the Government shutdown as funding expires on December 1. the tone and outcome of the negotiations over the 2021 defense bill that includes legislation and guidance on consolidation of resale programs, DeCA performance, and many other issues.

Full-court press to get commissary shelves filled.  Amidst a new wave of COVID and warning signals of a renewed rush on grocery stores, the DeCA management team is accelerating its efforts to fill empty holes on commissary shelves and get the industry at large to recognize the unique aspects of the military supply chain that make adequate product allocations essential.  The review involves focusing on existing processes and examining new processes to get the right products to the right place at the right time.  Reports are that there is a problem with availability on 40 percent of the products supplied to DeCA.  Also, product scarcity has exposed areas where the entire process for planning, ordering and shipping needs to be overhauled.

At the ALA Convention on October 22, Chris Burns, DeCA’s Director of Sales, Marketing and Logistics said that the problem with getting products on the shelves has become more acute and that they are looking at a wide range of initiatives to solve the problem.  There has been a spike in COVID cases at certain overseas locations and commissary planners are looking at another corollary spike in commissary shopping.  Meanwhile, exchanges also have been clamoring for more product from manufacturers and reportedly are taking business measures to encourage suppliers to make more product available to the exchange pipeline.

The increased commissary effort involves a look by DeCA officials up and down the supply chain from systems to processes and from source to shelf.

DeCA has scheduled “listening sessions” with major manufacturers.  These sessions are being planned over the next few weeks with the intent of strengthening the partnership with industry, improving business results and improving the shopping experience for patrons.  On the Government side, the sessions will include Jim Flannery, DeCA’s new Chief Transformation Officer.  The sessions will include DeCA Director Bill Moore; COO Mike Dowling; Executive Director for Store Operations Rogers Campbell; Executive Director of Sales, Marketing & Logistic Chris Burns; Director of Sales Tracie Russ; and Director of Logistics Randy Eller.  On the industry side will initially be senior executives and military channel managers in the major consumer product goods manufacturing sector.

Joint business planning sessions.  Due to the multi-faceted nature of the matter, collaboration between the Government and industry is heralded as key to addressing each choke point in product flow including frailties in the category management process.   Product shortages call for category managers and their suppliers to double down on planning and forecasting.  DeCA and the ALA Commissary Council are engaging more actively on a wide range of issues including a session planned for November 10 where DeCA will bring all of its category managers together with industry to discuss programs to fill empty shelves.  The sessions include clarification and updates on the commissary agency’s processes including IT systems and a dialogue on improving forecasting and planning.

Military family stress and a DoD review.  The DeCA out-of-stock problem is getting high-level government attention and being briefed at the highest levels of the Pentagon.  Federal officials are looking at direct communications to industry from Pentagon leaders to stress the unique aspects of the military supply channel for both commissaries and exchanges.  This includes the fact that the pipeline for some commissary locations overseas exceeds 55 days thus forcing distributors to fill overseas orders, leaving little if any product for stateside stores.  DeCA officials say that they have “purposefully prioritized shipments to our overseas bases so that those military families deployed outside the US can get the products they want and need: and DeCA is “moving to shine more light on the issue.”

Military families often isolated and distressed.  At some overseas locations, lockdowns and associated base access restrictions isolate military families and the commissary and exchange are often their only source of products and services.  And, there are increasing calls in Congress for more focus on military “food insecurity” that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  Congresswoman Susan Davis said: “Of all the sacrifices military families make, the ability to put food on the table should not be one of them.”   A 2018 survey found that 7% of military family respondents and 12% of veteran family respondents indicated someone in their household faced food insecurity in the past year. Additionally, 9% of military family respondents and 18% of veteran family respondents indicated someone in their household had sought emergency food assistance through a food bank, food pantry, or charitable organization.

Opinions on the commissary shortages run across the supply chain.  The grocery supply chain is inherently difficult, operates with low margins and depends on high volume and predictability to ensure pipeline viability and consistent flow…so industry views and concerns are multi-faceted.  Commercial distributors cite chronic problems with fill rates from manufacturers for many critical items and point to late “vendor cuts” from some suppliers that contribute to the problem.  These distributors point to increased costs associated with the pandemic for sanitation and other measures to control the virus at critical distribution hubs.  Some distributors have placed a surcharge on slow moving items because of what they say is the high cost of handling small quantities.  Others point to too many SKUs—estimated at 25,000 to 28,000.  Also, there have been periodic pandemic-related disruptions of product flow in some sectors including meat processing with these suppliers taking extraordinary measures to keep their plants operating.  Also, base access restrictions reduce customer flow and surging and receding local and regional pandemic levels cause convulsions in consumer demand that make forecasting exponentially difficult.  This dynamic up and down patron demand calls for agility and heightened responsiveness, a tough call a problem that has multiple players and multiple systems.  Some suppliers maintain that DeCA needs to up its game on systems, planning, forecasting and ordering that can distort fill rate metrics and make it tough for distributors and manufacturers to predict and fill quantities.  Some suppliers cite declining sales and volume at the commissaries as contributing to the problem.  Other suppliers say that DeCA fill rates don’t account for discontinued items that have accelerated as manufacturers concentrate on fast movers.  Some suppliers say that the system must be realistic about products that are not available and move more quickly to substitute those that are available.

Government officials are examining Federal programs to get more critical products to the commissary shelves.  The ramped-up effort is being discussed and coordinated with several Pentagon offices and is looking at a process to use the Defense Priorities and Allocation System to “rate” suppliers and flow more product to the commissaries.    The process  has its roots in the Defense Production Act that was issued in 1950.It is a subset of the Defense Production Act and the  process calls for a communication from the Department of Defense to the office of Preparedness and Response in the Department of Health and Human Services under a process outlined in 2015 whereby HHS “may require certain contracts or orders that promote the national defense b given priority over other contracts or orders.”    The guidance (HRPAS rule issued July 17, 2015) lays out procedures for determining allocations and processes to ensure compliance including audits and investigations.  “Allocations” under this order are defined as “the control of the distribution of materials, services or facilities for a purpose deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense.”   Under this program, requests flow to a White House office responsible for coordinating pandemic relief.  Other agencies that get involved include the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture   The move to introduce this process to the military resale supply chain is uncharted territory.  The existing regulations say that commercial items are not covered under the guidance…but, then again, these are unusual times.  In March, the Pentagon designated commissaries as “mission critical” and said that extraordinary measures need to be taken to keep the stores open and products flowing.

It just got easier for military shoppers to shop.  A memorandum from the Secretary of Defense has eased restrictions on what people can wear when they shop at exchanges and commissaries.  The memo reads: “Effective immediately, physical fitness attire is authorized for wear by patrons at commissaries and exchanges…on all DoD installations.”

Publix Super Markets sales surge.  For the quarter ended Sept. 26, net sales totaled $11.1 billion, up 18.3% from $9.3 billion a year earlier, Publix reported Monday. Comp-store sales jumped 16.5% year over year. The Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer estimated that the impact from the coronavirus crisis lifted its overall sales in the quarter by about $1.25 billion, or 13.4%.

Nestlé announced that it has acquired Freshly, a leading fresh-prepared meal delivery service, for $950 million.   Founded in 2015, Freshly delivers a menu of fresh, chef-cooked meals to subscribing members across the United States, that, according to the company, breaks down the barriers to healthy eating by delivering nutrition and convenience at scale.

Bases in Europe clamping down again.  Another spike in the virus is causing bases in Germany and Italy to clamp down including limiting gym use and having take-out only at dining halls, according to the Stars and Stripes.  Defense guidance is that local commanders can determine measures needed to control virus spread.

Diversity training update.  We reported last week that DoD was going to issue guidance to contractors regarding the White House executive order on diversity training and that this guidance would have an effect some ALA members.  We learned this week that the Pentagon IG is cancelling an audit on diversity training and replacing it with another audit.  Here’s an excerpt from the IG memo announcing the termination of the audit: “We announced the subject audit on September 24, 2020 (attached). The objective was to determine whether the Military Departments provide military personnel with diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity training that aligns with the DoD’s diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity goals, and to determine whether the training is effectively implemented across the Military Departments in accordance with Federal and DoD policies. We are terminating this audit because we are going to announce a new project that is focused on the recently issued Executive Order 13950, “Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” September 22, 2020, and implemented by the Secretary of Defense Memorandum, “Implementation of Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” October 16, 2020. “

US Foods Inc., Salem, Missouri, has been awarded a maximum $37,260,000 fixed-price with economic-price-adjustment, indefinite-quantity contract for full-line food distribution.  This was a sole-source acquisition using justification 10 U.S. Code 2304 (c)(1), as stated in Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-1.  This is a 108-day bridge contract with no option periods.  Locations of performance are Missouri and Illinois, with a Feb. 16, 2021, performance completion date.  Using customers are Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.  Type of appropriation is fiscal 2021 defense working capital funds.  The contracting agency is the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (SPE300-21-D-3300).

Contract stocking roll-out.  DeCA has resumed the roll-out of its contract stocking and is deploying to ten sites after a Federal Judge lifted a restriction on deployment.  Here’s the schedule:  November 1, Benning, Campbell, Norfolk, Randolph; December 1, Anchorage, Jacksonville, Miramar, Nellis, Pensacola, Whidbey Island.

Ramped-up safety measures at military exchanges.  This year’s holiday shopping season will be different than any in memory. When the pandemic hit months earlier, everything changed in our world, and this includes the daily routine at local military stores, where precautions and protocols were instituted to ensure that patrons were safe when doing their shopping.

With these measures in place, the exchanges have been able to weather the COVID-19 storm, continuing to meet the demands of military shoppers.  And with the holiday season at the doorstep, these stores have taken extra precautions to ensure that safety is paramount during the busiest shopping time of the year.

The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM) recently announced that it is taking additional steps to ensure customers feel comfortable and safe while shopping in their worldwide network of stores during the upcoming holiday season.

“Customer and associate safety are our No.-1 priority this holiday season,” said retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, NEXCOM’s chief executive officer (CEO) “We know this holiday season will be like no other we’ve ever experienced. To that end, we have created several initiatives so customers can shop smarter, safer and earlier this year. We are balancing that safety while still offering the festive holiday spirit and the great deals on key brands and products our customers have come to expect from their NEX.”

NEX store aisles will be kept clear of displays to ensure room for social distancing. There will also be a strict occupancy limit in stores as well as a limit to the number of customers allowed in the checkout line during peak shopping days.   According to NEXCOM, the frequency of deep cleaning in stores will be increased during the holiday season. This cleaning includes regular wiping down of surfaces, door handles, shopping carts and other public areas as prescribed by the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sanitary wipes and/or hand sanitizer will be readily available at cash registers, and sneeze shields remain installed at registers for the safety of associates and patrons alike.

Also, everyone inside a NEX location must wear a cloth face covering at all times.

“This year has been extraordinary in many ways and has taught us all some valuable lessons including the importance of family and friends,” Bianchi said. “We have so much to be thankful for. On behalf of our 12,000 NEXCOM associates around the world, thank you for your service and your support!”

Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) Stores are adhering to several safety protocols to protect the health and safety of its customers and employees.  According to Bryan Driver, spokesman, Plans, Policy and Analysis Directorate, Business and Support Services Division, these measures include enhanced cleaning protocols; early shopping for customer convenience and safety; and the use of plexi-shields at point of sale.  When customers are inside the store, mandatory face coverings must be worn; there is a social distancing of six feet; and there is a monitoring the number of people in a store.  “In addition, we’ve made specific adjustments to promotion schedules and hours to ensure we are better able to manage social distancing both inside and outside of the store,” Driver said. “High-demand items are also going to be staged throughout the store to better flow traffic, even if outside its parent department.”

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is committed to providing safe, secure, sanitized shopping — including contactless options — for those authorized customers doing holiday and everyday shopping in its worldwide network of stores.

“Customers who choose to shop in person will find clean, sanitized stores, malls and restaurants,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Osby, the Exchange’s senior enlisted advisor. “This year’s tradition of Black Friday shopping will look different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Exchange’s commitment to taking care of Soldiers, Airmen and their families remains the same.”  Unlike other years, when AAFES stores joined in the holiday hoopla by opening its stores at the earliest hours possible, Black Friday sales start online midnight Central time Nov. 26 at ShopMyExchange.com, with Exchange main stores worldwide opening at 8 a.m.

To further protect the force, the Exchange:

  • Installed acrylic shields at points of sale, customer service areas and restaurants.
  • Regularly disinfects customer service and sales points to include keypads multiple times daily, including at restaurants and concessionaires.
  • Thoroughly cleans product displays and high-traffic fixtures.
  • Added sanitizing stations.
  • Adheres to Department of Defense (DoD) guidance for mandatory face masks.
  • Merchandised stores, with social distancing in mind, for a safer and easier shopping experience.

Larger retailers such as Walmart Inc. and Home Depot Inc. are developing safety protocols such as requiring employees to wear masks and more frequent cleaning. Many retailers are shifting policies ahead of the busy holiday season. Walmart said it would stay open until 11 p.m. in most stores starting Nov. 14, in part to spread shopper traffic across more hours. Previously, Walmart was open until 10 p.m., after pulling back from being open 24 hours at most locations.  Retailers have canceled typical Thanksgiving and Black Friday in-store sales events or have spread holiday deals out to reduce store crowding. Target Corp. is now allowing shoppers to check its website for lines at local stores, then book a time to enter at busy location

Patriot Express flight COVID testing.  In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to meet the long-standing commitments to our allies and partners, the Department of Defense will begin rapid, on-site COVID-19 testing for passengers  departing Baltimore Washington International Airport and Seattle Tacoma Airport aboard Patriot Express flights for official duty at overseas locations.  Currently all Patriot Express travelers are screened for symptoms of COVID-19 or history of close contact with persons positive for COVID-19 by completing a pre-travel questionnaire and on-site temperature check. Beginning Nov. 1, approximately 10-15 percent of those screened who are not exhibiting symptoms will now be subject to a rapid, on-site laboratory test prior to travel.  Guidance will be available on the AMC Travel Page, which includes the latest information about AMC travel amid the coronavirus pandemic – www.amc.af.mil/Home/AMC-Travel-Site/

Two mall operators filed for bankruptcy protection this week.  They’ve been hurt by the ripple effect of the pandemic that has forced many of its mall tenants to permanently close stores or not pay rent.  Both companies, CBL and Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, said their malls will remain open as they go through the bankruptcy process.  Even before the coronavirus-induced store closures, malls struggled to attract customers who were increasingly shopping online. The pandemic forced many malls and their retail tenants to temporarily close for months. Mall tenants, which operators rely on for rent, have been stressed this year. Some are going bankrupt and closing stores, such as J.C. Penny and California Pizza Kitchen.   The mall bankruptcies come weeks before a crucial holiday shopping season. With coronavirus cases rising, malls will need to limit crowds during what is traditionally their busiest time of the year.

CBL, which operates 107 malls, said more than 30 of its tenants have filed for bankruptcy protection this year and are shutting stores, including 100 Ann Taylor, LOFT and other stores in CBL malls. Based in Tennessee, CBL operates malls across the nation including EastGate Mall in Cincinnati and West County Center in St. Louis.  PREIT, based in Philadelphia, has more than 20 properties, including Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Viewmont Mall in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Like other malls looking to attract shoppers, PREIT has added restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to its properties in recent years. But those establishments have been hit harder by the pandemic and have stricter social distancing rules on how many people can visit.

Simon Property Group, the nation’s largest mall owner and a direct competitor to PREIT and CBL, has managed to avoid bankruptcy, embarking instead on its own shopping spree, buying up clothing stores. Earlier this year, Simon Property bought men’s clothier Brooks Brothers, fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 and denim store Lucky Brand. A deal is in place for Simon Property, along with Brookfield Asset Management, to buy J.C. Penney.

Sales of McCormick & Co.-branded spices and herbs were up 35 percent over last year, according to Information Resources, a data analytics firm. One of the world’s largest spice companies, based in Hunt Valley, Md., is up nearly 16 percent in dry recipe mixes in that same time frame, nearly 10 percent for mustard, 44 percent for hot wing sauce and 35 percent for barbecue sauces, the data shows.  Buyers’ willingness to pay a premium for new flavors and global tastes has been fueling the growth of the international product market for some time. According to Grand View Research, the global seasoning and spices market was valued around $13.8 billion in 2019 and was expected to see substantial growth through 2027.  The pandemic has accelerated that. According to NPD Group, national consumption of spices, seasonings, marinades and rubs was up over 50 percent in July 2020, the most recent month for which data is available, compared with July 2019. Much of the increase has been seen at breakfast and lunch, two meals historically eaten away from home. Instead of the grab-and-go staples of the pre-pandemic era, households have more time, and breakfasts have become more involved. Home lunchers have upped their condiment and seasoning game.

Dunkin Brands sold itself to Inspire Brands for $11.3 billion.  It merges Dunkin and Baskin Robbins’ nearly 20,000 storefronts with Sonic, Jimmy John’s, Arby’s and Buffalo Wild Wings 10,000 stores.  Analysts say look for Dunkin to expand westward.  Dunkin’s share price has nearly doubled since March.

Debit card volume is up 23 percent, credit card volume down 8 percent in the quarter ended September.  Analysts cite more touchless use, less cash for small purchases.

PPP program flexibility.  Many small businesses that depend on exchange and commissary business have had to seek relief from Federal programs to aid in their cash flow due to a slowdown in orders especially in Softline categories.  The Federal Reserve Board has adjusted the terms of the Main Street Lending Program in two important ways to better target support to smaller businesses that employ millions of workers and are facing continued revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic. In particular, the minimum loan size for three Main Street facilities available to for-profit and non-profit borrowers has been reduced from $250,000 to $100,000 and the fees have been adjusted to encourage the provision of these smaller loans. The Board and Department of the Treasury also issued a new frequently asked question clarifying that Paycheck Protection Program loans of up to $2 million may be excluded for purposes of determining the maximum loan size under the Main Street Lending Program, if certain requirements are met, which should also help smaller businesses access Main Street loans.

Grocery store employees are likely to be at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection.  Those in customer-facing roles are five times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions, suggests the first study of its kind, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.  What’s more, among those testing positive, three out of four had no symptoms, suggesting these key workers could be an important reservoir of infection, say the researchers.  Workers in customer facing roles were five times more likely to test positive than their colleagues in other types of role, after accounting for potentially influential factors, such as the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 where they lived. Those in supervisory roles were six times more likely to do so.  And they point out: “Once essential workers are infected with SARS-CoV-2, they may become a significant transmission source for the community they serve.”  They believe their findings support: “the policy recommendations that employers and government officials should take actions on implementing preventive strategies and administrative arrangements, such as methods to reduce interpersonal contact, repeat and routine SARS-CoV-2 employee testing, to ensure the health and safety of essential workers.”   And they add: “Our significant mental health finding calls for action in providing comprehensive employee assistance services to help essential workers cope with the psychological distress during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Speeding curbside and delivery.  Walmart aims to improve its first-time pick rate by testing ways to use store signage and handheld devices to help steer associates to the right spots when filling online orders, speeding up the process. “The percentage of times associates find the item on their first attempt has gone up by 20% in some of the categories that tend to be our hardest to pick,” according to Crecelius. “What this means for customers is that their orders get filled faster.”  Similarly, on the in-store operational side, Walmart has developed an app that expedites the moving of items from the backroom to the sales floor. Using that tool, store associates no longer have to scan each box. Instead, they hold up a handheld device, and the app employs augmented reality technology to highlight boxes ready to go, explained Crecelius. “Product gets on the shelf faster, something we all know is increasingly important,” he added.

DeCA Fiscal 2020 sales results.  Commissaries operating around the world experienced more than 69 million transactions generating more than $4.5 billion in sales during the recently concluded fiscal year.  Final figures for fiscal 2020 showed total sales of $4,511,271,753 through DeCA’s worldwide network of commissaries and other assorted retail operations including NEXMarts, central distribution centers (CDC) and Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) produce market sections.  During this year of change, the total sales mark increased slightly less than 1 percent above the previous fiscal year’s $4,485,524,727 tally and represented the first fiscal year of heightened sales since fiscal 2012, when sales reached past the $6 billion mark with activity generated by the agency’s then-roster of 247 commissaries.

At the American Logistics Association’s (ALA) recently concluded 100th Annual Convention, DeCA Director Bill Moore noted that the agency, “was mission critical during the early days of the pandemic, and this allowed us to keep our 236 stores open, and those stores delivered the benefit that was so important to service members and their families, retirees, and now, disabled veterans as well.”

Moore said that DeCA’s goal, even more so in a pandemic environment, “is to ensure that every eligible patron enjoys the benefit, and that is a bit of a challenge these days with all the competition that we have, but I am looking forward to it.”

Defense Commissary Agency Fiscal 2020 Sales Statistics

Sales by DeCA Area ($ in thousands)

Area                                                   Grocery           Meat        Produce       Total                

DeCA East                                     $883,662       $95,294      $102,845       $1,081,802

  DeCA Central                                $726,491       $88,435        $76,356       $891,282

DeCA West                                    $935,616       $95,728        $91,654       $1,240,589

  DeCA Pacific                                 $818,109       $87,675      $111,047       $1,122,998

  DeCA Europe                                $336,571       $27,467        $33,322       $397,360

  TOTAL                                       $3,701,449     $394,599      $415,224       $4,511,272

DeCA Year-on-Year Transactions

Fiscal 2020                                   Fiscal 2021                       Difference

69,198,281                                    77,064,543                           -10.21%

DeCA Market Basket

Fiscal 2020                                   Fiscal 2019                       Difference

$65.19                                                  $58.20                          +12.01%

DeCA Sales by Store Segment ($ in thousands)

Category                                       Fiscal 2020                      Fiscal 2019       Difference

Grocery                                         $3,701,449                       $3,686,394       +0.41%

Meat                                                 $394,599                          $375,596       +5.06%

Produce                                            $415,224                          $423,534       -1.96%

Total                                              $4,511,272                       $4,485,525       +0.57%

ALA is major sponsor of Veteran’s Day in Recognition program.   ALA and several member companies are supporting a major combined and coordinated evert being conducted by all of the major on-base retailers.  The sponsorship move comes as ALA ramps up its collaboration with the military retailers on both the commissary and exchange side of the business with 12 specialty workshops between the retailers and industry planned through the Spring of 2021.  ALA is working with all facets of the military retail world to boost business and patron participation through a number of programs that were announced at the October 20 and 22 ALA National Convention.

Military Resale Unites to Honor Service Members Throughout November.  Military resale has a common goal, that being to provide service members and their families the goods that they want and need at the best prices to make the benefit stronger. And in November, the four exchange services and the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) will join up for a common cause, to recognize veterans who have served our country.

In honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, the Army and Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard exchanges and the commissary agency are joining forces for the first time to salute all who have worn our nation’s uniform with joint “In Recognition Of” events scheduled to occur throughout November.

Among the events that DeCA, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) will participate in during November include the following:

  • Military-exclusive Facebook live interviews featuring military heroes. The festivities, hosted by actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, include retired Medal of Honor recipients Col. Jack Jacobs; Capt. Florent Groberg; Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell; Sgt. Gary Beikirch Dwayne; Warrant Officer Woody Williams; and Silver Lifesaving medal recipient Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden.
  • A special Veterans Day concert series premiering live on social media. On Nov. 11, the performances start at 4 p.m. EST with a new musical guest on every hour until 11 p.m. EST.

Some of the confirmed artists include Andy Grammer; Ashanti; Big Boi; Hanson; K Michelle; and Tank And The Bangas.

  • “The Test Your Strength Plank Challenge” allows participants to share photos or video of them performing a plank exercise on the exchanges’ and the commissary’s special social media event pages beginning Nov. 1 for a chance to win an exchange gift card.

Famous faces plan to test their plank strength too, including Purple Heart recipient and Paralympian 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell,; celebrity chef Robert Irvine and actor Mark Wahlberg.

  • “The Challenge Coin Giveaway,” where exchanges and commissaries will distribute limited-edition challenge coins on Nov. 11. Coins are available while supplies last.

 NEXCOM will offer free meals for DoDEA students.  The program will waive the charge to military students who are enrolled in an overseas Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) school. The free meal waiver was granted the U.S. Department of Agriculture for food services operated by School Food Authorities (NEXCOM, Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) or Marine Corps Community Services).

“Providing free school meals is a great way to ensure all of our student customers have access to healthy and fresh food,” said Orlando Del Hoyo, Student Meal Program Specialist for NEXCOM. “This effort will also lessen the financial burden on our service members and their families during these unprecedented times. NEXCOM remains in close coordination with DoDEA and the USDA to ensure a successful rollout.”  NEXCOM facilitates student meals and serves as the DoD School Food Authorities at 20 schools in nine different overseas locations. Those overseas locations supported are Yokosuka, Atsugi and Sasebo, Japan; Anderson Air Force Base and U.S. Naval Base Guam; Naples, Italy; Bahrain; Sigonella, Sicily; Rota, Spain; and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

 CLICK2GO, the Defense Commissary Agency’s online ordering/curbside pickup grocery service, returned Oct. 27 to the Offutt Air Force Base Commissary.  In 2013, the Offutt Commissary became one of three stores to offer curbside pickup under a pilot program. DeCA discontinued that program in June 2019 to make way for a new CLICK2GO as the agency rolled out its new Enterprise Business System to stores. Offutt is now among 9 stores offering the new service, and an expansion to more commissaries is planned for next year.

CMMC coming with implications for companies doing business with the Government.  The Cyber Security Maturity Model Framework is a long and complicated term for ensuring companies have the right protocols and systems in place to have their IT systems interface with the government.  Th roll-out is underway with guidance being fielded by the DoD.  There are a lot of open questions including whether the rules apply to NAF and commissary contractors and how it deals with commercial off-the-shelf products.  The implications are big as companies which do not comply would lose their ability to bid on contracts.  We discussed this at the ALA National Convention and will be working with DoD to clarify the implications for resale companies.  Stay tuned.

Retailer reservations.  Target is introducing a new safety measure: reservations.  Retailers have adopted a range of protocols to minimize crowds, long lines and repeat shopping trips during the coronavirus pandemic. Most large retailers offer curbside pickup and contactless checkout to accommodate social distancing, and many have scrapped such Black Friday traditions as Thanksgiving Day openings and “doorbuster” deals to fill their stores. But shopping by appointment is uncommon among retailers.  “Some national chains, including Best Buy, Williams Sonoma and West Elm, instituted mandatory store appointments early in the pandemic, though most have since lifted those requirements. Others such as Suitsupply and Chico’s now offer appointments to interested shoppers. Shoppers can also reserve time slots at local grocery stores and farmers markets using Opentable, the restaurant reservation site.  Shoppers are planning to visit the fewest stores on record this holiday shopping season, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail survey, with the average shopper planning to visit 5.2 stores. The average household expects to spend $1,387 during the 2020 holiday season, down 7 percent from last year.

Best regards,
Stephen Rossetti
President

 

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