KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Starting in February, commissaries overseas will stop carrying magazines and most newspapers due to declining sales and the expense of airlifting the periodicals from the States, Defense Commissary Agency officials said this week.
Commissaries in the United States will continue to sell magazines and newspapers, officials said. Overseas, those items will still be available at Army and Air Force Exchange Service retail stores.
Over the last four years, magazine sales at overseas commissaries have steadily dwindled, from about $1.98 million in fiscal 2008 to about $1.46 million in fiscal 2011, according to information from DeCA. That is due in part to DeCA purchasing fewer magazines, but stores still only were selling about half the magazine inventory, said Kevin Robinson, a DeCA spokesman at the agency’s corporate headquarters in Fort Lee, Va. Between January and March of last year, for example, 49 percent of magazines on commissary shelves overseas went unsold, according to DeCA.
“No business model in the world could survive” with that type of sales rate, Robinson said.
DeCA was also spending over half a million dollars on getting the magazines overseas, officials said. In fiscal 2011, DeCA spent about $673,000 in taxpayer dollars — money appropriated by Congress — to airlift magazines to commissaries in Europe and the Pacific, according to figures from DeCA.
With budget cuts looming across the Defense Department, agencies are scrambling to find ways to cut costs. While stopping magazine sales overseas will save money, Robinson said, it’s also a decision that makes good business sense “regardless of the budget climate.”
“DeCA recognizes that it has an inherent responsibility to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars,” he said in a written statement.
“This was something we could do as an agency to drive down our costs and not impact the customer as much,” added Leslie Brown, DeCA-Europe spokeswoman. She said customers can read magazines online or purchase them at the base exchange.
Customers shopping at the Vogelweh commissary near Kaiserslautern on Tuesday said being able to buy magazines with their groceries was convenient, but something they could live without.
“I used to buy a lot of magazines (at the commissary) but stopped about three years ago,” said Air Force spouse Niki Gould. “You can see everything online. It’s kind of a waste of $5 or more, depending on the magazine.”
Commissaries in Europe and the Pacific will continue to sell Stars and Stripes newspaper, which is published overseas and not shipped from the States, officials said.