Local News

Many Military Families Overlook Commissaries

Posted January 31, 1999

— For years the commissary has been a convenient and inexpensive place for military families to shop. Now, discount stores are luring shoppers away.

The people running commissaries are quick to point out they are not competing with discount stores. At the same time, they admit sales have dropped 20 percent over the last five years.

They blame those discount stores that have gone into the grocery store business.

When Jordana Rieger does her grocery shopping, she always comes to Fort Bragg's Main Commissary. She believes she saves a bundle.

"I want to support the military community. There are so many benefits they give us, and this is a great one, so I prefer to do it here," said Rieger.

For the last three years, people in the military have rated the commissary their number one benefit.

Even so, sales are slipping. Military insiders say it is harder to convince younger shoppers to use the commissary, because they grew up shopping at discount stores. A policy against advertising also hurts.

"We need to get the customer in here to see we have a good deal for them. We gave them 20 to 30 percent overall," said Marian Baggett, commissary manager.

Can you really save that much? WRAL did some shopping to find out.

WRAL bought the same ten items at the commissary and a discount store, everything from diapers to dog food. The commissary's total bill was $6 cheaper.

Tony Blackmon is a soldier who lives off post. He says his savings all depend on what he buys.

Since he lives off post, he also likes the convenience of discount stores.

"Some things you can find cheaper on post but bulk items you can find cheaper off post," said Blackmon.

Beginning Oct. 1, commissaries will raise their prices by one percent. Leaders say that has nothing to do with competition.

They are trying to offset losses totaling $50 million a year caused by theft and breakage.

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