New Pricing Program Bumps Commissary Sales: Officials

(Defense Commissary Agency/Jessica Rouse)
(Defense Commissary Agency/Jessica Rouse)

Commissary officials said a program designed to mimic off-base grocery specials has sparked an uptick in U.S. sales.

The Your Everyday Savings (YES) program, which started in June, reduced prices on about 500 grocery items in an effort to bring them closer to off-base "loss leader" grocery specials, officials said.

During June, purchases of the price-altered YES items increased 22 percent over May, officials said in a release.

In the past, the commissary was required by law to sell all goods at wholesale, plus a five percent surcharge that funds store and technology upkeep and improvements.

The YES program marks one of the first times commissary officials have broadly used new authority granted by Congress to raise and lower grocery prices so long as they are able to give shoppers a savings of 23.7 percent over off-base stores.

The Defense Commissary Agency has experienced a decline of about 20 percent in overall sales over the last five years. The system receives about $1.3 billion in annual taxpayer funding.

While civilian stores typically swap out their loss leaders once a week, going forward the commissary will change YES prices twice a year, Kevin Robinson, a commissary spokesman told Military.com in a statement. Between those overhauls, the system will also raise and lower prices on those items based on other promotions, setting them back to their YES-level norm when secondary promotions end.

To pick items for the YES program, officials examined customer shopping habits, focusing on purchases of name-brand products, Robinson said.

"The commissary started the initiative by discovering what items met the criteria of high customer demand and customer price sensitivity, believing that these two factors [were the basis] of what our customers viewed as image items, so this criteria funneled only name-brand products," he said. "Any item in our stock assortment that meets these two minimum requirements can be further considered for the YES program, so as our commissary-branded products gain acceptance, they may in the future be included."

Current YES prices, originally set in June, will be reset in August, he said. Store officials will then reassess those prices in December and reset them in January. The YES program is used only in commissary stores in the 48 contiguous states.

YES items with the highest sales in June were brand-name bottled water, canned meat, bath tissue, coffee, potato chips, pet food, pasta and laundry detergent, according to a release.

In late June, commissary officials issued a recall for the system's in-house brand Freedom's Choice bottled water "due to the discovery of potential impurities that exceed the manufacturer's standards."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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