Military exchanges, tackling supply chain issues, urge customers not to wait for holiday shopping

Like stores across the country, military exchanges are grappling with supply chain issues related to COVID and rising prices.

Problems affect everything from the manufacturing process to the entire shipping chain.

“We continue to fight for our ‘unfair share’ of inventory to provide continued availability of goods to service members and their families around the world,” said Chris Ward, spokesperson for the Exchange Service. army and air force. Affected products include electronics, sports shoes, men’s and women’s clothing, household appliances, furniture, etc., he said.

Raw material shortages particularly affect certain products, such as those containing microchips, aluminum, glass and textiles, said Courtney Williams, spokeswoman for the Navy Exchange Service Command. Some of the brands that have been affected include Dyson, Whirlpool, Samsung, Charbroil and a number of beverage companies, she said.

Other issues include shipping container shortages, COVID-related factory closures, continued port congestion, port container capacity limitations, driver availability, and limited truck and train capacity. , Ward said. These shipping issues have also plagued the moving industry, affecting military family moves.

These are not short term problems. No one knows when the product shortage will ease, Williams said, “but in shipping, we hope some relief will occur by the end of 2022.”

Exchanges and commissioners compete with other out-of-gate retailers for products and argue that the industry should give preferential treatment to military stores, allocating an “unfair share” of inventory to the military community – given the nature of the military lifestyle and the sacrifices of service members. and their families do.

Many vendors have prioritized military resale over other outlets, especially with certain COVID-related products, Williams said.

Labor, material and transportation costs have skyrocketed. Williams said NEXCOM has been working to try to mitigate the increases to ensure they can continue to deliver savings to their customers.

Additionally, across all military resale organizations, their Joint Buying Alliance, formed in 2019, saved customers more than $75 million, Williams said.

Any advice from the exchange officials? “Don’t wait to buy. If you see it, buy it!” says Williams.

NEXCOM officials have decided to move the start of their “We Believe” holiday shopping campaign forward to start the week of Oct. 4 to give customers a head start, she said.

Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials kicked off their holiday shopping sales in early September, offering “Black Friday pricing” through Nov. 24, both in-store and online at ShopMyExchange.com, on electronics, apparel, jewelry, sporting goods and more. New offers and promotions are launched every Friday.

Many holiday deliveries are on their way to Navy Exchange stores or have just arrived, Williams said. But stores may not have been able to get the full quantity they originally ordered. And, she said, “NEXCOM is experiencing product delays that will create out-of-stock or shortage situations throughout the holiday season.”

With the exception of items scheduled for their “Navy Blue Weekend” sale events, they put all merchandise on the sale floors. As the weeks go by, customers are less likely to find what they want for their holiday shopping. “That said, NEXCOM shoppers are always researching and buying new products for the holiday season,” she said. “So there will be products on our shelves, but maybe not the gift that a customer originally wanted to buy.”

Navy Exchanges and AAFES stores have also started offering their free layaway this holiday season.

Most of the current product shortages and labor shortages are due to the recent increase in COVID-19 infections in civilian manufacturing plants, which has caused temporary closures as well as changes in production lines , Williams said. This can lead to longer manufacturing times and some have to prioritize or shift resources to only manufacture certain products.

Shortages of raw materials and packaging also affect the products themselves. “If a single element or ingredient needed to make an item is unavailable, it has a huge impact,” Williams said.

All Authorized Exchange Shoppers, regardless of Branch of Service, can shop at any of the Services’ Exchange Stores, both in physical stores and online.

All Department of Veterans Affairs service-bound disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, and primary caregivers of veterans are eligible to purchase on base military exchanges. All veterans are eligible to shop on online exchanges – mynavyexchange.com; shopmyexchange.com, mymcx.com and shopcgx.com.

Military exchanges to the United States are also now open to all DoD and Coast Guard civilians.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for over 30 years, and co-authored 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, Florida and Athens, Ga.