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Consumer Watch: Commissary Club tests bulk sales

Mar. 19, 2014 - 01:02PM   |  
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Case lot sales at commissaries have been canceled again this year due to budget cuts, according to a commissary spokesman.

These sales, held in May and September, traditionally have offered large sizes of products, similar to club stores, at increased savings to customers. But the sales are expensive for the Defense Commissary Agency, which is under tremendous pressure to cut its budget.

Running two case lot sales in a year worldwide costs DeCA about $900,000.

Last year, both sales also were canceled for budget reasons. DeCA spokesman Kevin Robinson notes that where possible, and “within resource limitations,” individual stores may hold their own sidewalk sales with savings similar to the case lot sales.

It’s unclear whether case lot sales are gone for good. In the meantime, DeCA is testing another way to offer bulk savings in the commissary, with shoppers at McChord Field Commissary at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., testing out a new concept — a club store format.

For now, the “Commissary Club” is limited to that one store. Shoppers will find jumbo-sized items in nearly every product category sold in the traditional part of the store. In a renovated 10,000-square-foot section of the warehouse, officials have installed new freezers, refrigerators and racks for large packages of meat, produce, dairy, frozen foods and other groceries and supplies.

“The Commissary Club model offers patrons club store and traditional grocery store shopping under one roof,” said Bruce Dubisar, project manager for DeCA’s club store concept, in an announcement about the opening. “And the only membership card customers need is their military ID.”

Such club stores in the civilian community are popular with many shoppers because they offer larger sizes and often bigger savings than regularly sized items.

DeCA officials call the store the first of its kind. Commissary officials will evaluate the operations of this addition, and its popularity with customers, according to the announcement. Information was not available on the timeline for evaluating the concept, or the next steps.

“We’re looking forward to hearing from our patrons on this new store experience at McChord Field,” Dubisar said in the announcement.

The traditional part of the McChord Field Commissary has been left intact. And there are no plans to change the format of the Lewis Main Commissary, the other store at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, officials said. In other words, this is strictly a one-store test.

Savvy shoppers know to always compare unit prices to make sure that a big package is a good deal. Check the unit price — believe it or not, sometimes it may actually be cheaper to buy a smaller size. And compare prices in local stores, including discount stores and club stores, so that you’re aware of what’s really a deal.

Also, as you buy bulk items, keep in mind the storage space required. Do you have room for 100 rolls of toilet paper? Will all that meat fit into your freezer? And if you’re getting close to a permanent change-of-station move, start thinking about whittling down the supply of bulk items you may already have.

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