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Commissaries hit record sales before shutdown

Oct. 4, 2013 - 05:32PM   |  
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Commissary stores had a record sales day — and a hectic one — on Tuesday as shoppers rushed to stock up for one last day before the government shut down their stores.

Customers descended on the commissaries like grocery store patrons preparing for a major storm, the Defense Commissary Agency reported.

“Sales for that day were $30.6 million, more than double the normal sales volume, making it the No. 1 sales day for DeCA since 2000,” said DeCA spokesman Kevin Robinson.

Of that, $26.3 million came from commissaries that are now closed, he said. Stores in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii were closed because of the government shutdown; overseas commissaries remain open.

Meanwhile, exchanges on stateside Army and Air Force bases will offer a 10 percent discount Saturday and Sunday to shoppers who use their Military Star credit card to buy food and some other items normally bought in commissaries.

This applies to exchanges in the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. Items that qualify include beverages, food items, pet food, and health and beauty and cleaning products at main stores and Expresses (convenience stores).

“We hope that offering this discount in the locations where commissaries have been forced to close will help make this time a little easier,” said Army Col. Tom Ockenfels, the Exchange agency’s chief of staff.

Those who use credit cards should remember the discount is diminished if the balance isn’t paid off at the end of the month, because interest charges are added.

Exchange officials also have been working to beef up their stock of items like diapers, bread, milk and frozen food.

Commissaries were allowed to keep their stores open Tuesday, technically the first day of the government shutdown, to try to sell as many perishable items as possible, such as meat, produce and dairy goods, to minimize the need for storage or disposal, DeCA’s Robinson said.

The National Military Family Association reported that some of their volunteers in the field said commissaries were a madhouse as customers sought to stock up.

DeCA’s Robinson concurred. “Commissary patrons across the United States reacted to the announced store closures in the same manner as customers descend on a grocery store to prepare for a hurricane,” Robinson said. “Many patrons were quoted as saying that they went beyond their normal shopping budget because they didn’t know how long the shutdown would last, and wanted to avoid higher prices in commercial stores.”

During the shutdown period when stateside commissaries, including Alaska and Hawaii, are closed, two staff members will be on call for each store to handle storage alarms and refrigeration alarms, and periodically discard products to prevent sanitation problems. They will periodically check the shelf life of products to follow proper food safety protocol.

“Depending on the duration of the government shutdown, we may have a product that expires and has to be disposed of. We will freeze or dispose of products in a manner that makes the most economical sense and minimizes losses,” Robinson said.

Because the items are government property, they must be properly accounted for, he said.

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