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New San Diego Store Illustrates Commissary Transformation

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2006 – A new commissary being built in southern California heralds the future for the Defense Commissary Agency, the organization’s top official said today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
An artist’s illustration of the new San Diego commissary’s interior. Courtesy image

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

San Diego’s new 118,000-square-foot commissary is slated to open sometime in April, Patrick B. Nixon, DeCA’s director and chief executive officer, said from his Fort Lee, Va., headquarters in a telephone interview with American Forces Press Service.

Nixon, 60, who served in Vietnam almost 40 years ago as a Marine supply sergeant, became DeCA’s chief in late June. The new San Diego commissary, he said, will be the largest and most modern facility within the agency’s 263-store, worldwide system.

“We call it our store of the future, because it is going to have some concepts in it that we are going to unveil for the first time,” Nixon said.

Many of the new commissary’s features, such as self-service and express checking lanes, a bright interior, and colorful customer-information signs are the result of findings from commissary Agency-commissioned grocery industry trend studies, Nixon said.

Major food retailers also perceive that shoppers want grocery stores to offer both convenience and choice, he said. Therefore, the new San Diego store will have two main entrances, one for customers who want to pick up just a few food items, and another entrance for those who want to stock up on groceries.

“You’re going to have to be able to address two entirely different shopping dynamics: the convenience shopper and then the pantry-loading shopper,” Nixon said. “Somehow, you’re going to have to be able to attract both of them.”

The new San Diego commissary also will have a health and wellness center that provides nutritional information for its customers’ health needs. And, great effort and care is being taken to ensure that San Diego commissary customers –- and other commissary patrons -- will be able to choose from only the best and freshest meats, produce and seafood available. “We’re going to have the best-possible products at the best prices you’ll find anyplace in the world,” Nixon said.

Features found in the new San Diego store will eventually filter across the commissary system, Nixon said, noting DeCA is focused on providing quality products, service and a unique shopping experience for its customers.

The Defense Commissary Agency was established in 1990 through the merger of previously separate commissary systems managed by each service branch. Nixon, who has worked at the agency since it was created, noted that his organization has changed much in the past 16 years.

Recent government audits have provided DeCA a clean bill of financial health, Nixon said, noting his 18,000-employee global organization is one of the few within the Defense Department to achieve this. “We’re a model citizen when it comes to fiscal responsibility in the Defense Department, and we want to continue to demonstrate that,” Nixon said.

Operational improvements and new technologies implemented across the commissary system over the past few years have helped it become more efficient and an even better steward of taxpayer dollars, he said.

And, servicemembers and their families continue to receive great value by shopping at military commissaries, Nixon said. Commissary shoppers realize about 32 percent in annual savings, he said, which works out to about $3,000 a year for a family of four.

The commissary benefit “is alive, well and strong,” Nixon said, noting it carries a lot of weight among military families during re-enlistment decision time.

“We’ve got the best customer in the world,” Nixon said, “and for what we ask our military to do, there’s nothing we can’t do for them.”

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Patrick B. Nixon

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Defense Commissary Agency

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