Some commissary customers may be able to get their groceries delivered to their homes and offices by the end of the year.

Defense Commissary Agency Director Bill Moore said his goal is to pilot a commissary delivery program at “certain locations” by the end of the year, during a recent briefing at the American Logistics Association annual meeting. Moore wants to make it more convenient for customers to use their commissary benefit. Across the worldwide commissary system, customers saved an average 25 percent in 2020, compared to stores outside the gate.

The commissary agency is currently conducting market research on delivery services, said commissary agency spokesman Kevin Robinson. That includes a Request for Information to industry. Right now officials are in the research phase, so information about where the service would be available would come at a later date.

According to that RFI document, the plan is to eventually be able deliver groceries from all commissaries in the continental U.S; and deliveries will be made to customers both on the installation and off the installation.

The RFI asks for information about whether potential delivery providers are already able to start a delivery service from all stateside commissaries. If the provider could start the service at some CONUS commissaries, it asks for details on which stores; and it asks for information on which commissaries could get the delivery service within the next 12 months.

“The agency will analyze industry response to the RFI and other market research available to determine the best acquisition strategy for delivery services to DeCA patrons,” Robinson said.

It’s a matter of convenience for customers, which is a primary goal, especially for young shoppers, Moore said, during the Oct. 20 briefing. “It’s especially important for single service members,” he said, noting that commissary officials have held some focus groups with single service members. “They’re telling us it’s not cool to shop there.

“I actually had a young private tell me he shopped there once, and didn’t have his mask on properly, and had to do pushups in the store. He said never again would he be in the commissary. So I know where he’s coming from,” Moore said. If that private could just order his groceries and enjoy the benefit from his barracks, Moore said, “I think he’d want to become a commissary shopper.”

Commissary employees don’t require pushups for an incorrect placement of a mask; that private encountered a higher-ranking service member who took that action.

At the end of September, commissary officials finished rolling out their online ordering/curbside pickup service at all their 236 stores worldwide. Moore, who took the helm of the commissary agency in August, 2020, stated early on that he wanted to speed up the rollout of the curbside pickup service known as Click2Go. Because of the limitations of the previous initiative, it would have taken seven years to roll out worldwide. So commissary officials found an alternative system to provide the service.

The expansion of Click2Go came at a time when consumers around the world have been navigating the uncertainties of the COVID pandemic by turning more and more to internet shopping for food and other necessities. A number of commercial grocery stores in the U.S. began offering curbside pickup services during the pandemic. As commissary customers called for more Click2Go locations during the pandemic, officials ramped up their rollout.

Commissaries are indefinitely waiving the $4.95 service fee for these orders, to encourage customers to try Click2Go.

The grocery deliveries may be helpful to other customers, such as the newly-eligible disabled veterans. During the pandemic, shoppers at many locations have struggled to get onto installations at times, because of base access restriction due to the pandemic.

Officials have also implemented online payment for Click2Go as locations have received their new cash register technology. About 70 percent of stores have that capability now, Moore said, adding that he expects all the remaining stores to have it by next Spring.

Over a decade ago, commissary officials dipped their toe in the water of home delivery, but the contractors’ offerings were limited to items like pre-made gift baskets — not products like fruits and vegetables, meats, diapers, and the plethora of discounted items available in commissaries.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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