Base exchanges do what they can to keep up with new trends
Stars and Stripes March 13, 2006
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — If you must have the latest iPod, multimedia-supercharged laptop computer or Britney Spears fragrance, you may or may not be in luck when shopping in exchanges overseas.
According to officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Navy Exchange Command and Marine Corps Community Services, disconnects can occur between what’s trendy and what’s on the shelves.
At Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, MCCS operates the Marine Corps Exchange, said Steve Howard, MCCS spokesman.
The Iwakuni exchange is the only MCX in the world on foreign soil, and it has local buyers working to stock items that base personnel indicate they want or need.
“In gauging what the latest trends will be, the MCX utilizes base media, community customer feedback, local buyers’ forums and trade shows,” Howard said.
“Our success in acquiring trendy items is very good; however, that can be limited by production of vendors,” he said. “For example, Apple faces production problems in the iPod category for both the private and military sector based on supply and demand.”
Howard said Iwakuni MCX buyers already are looking at what’s likely to remain popular during the coming year.
Such items, he said, include “anything iPod, flat-panel LCD and plasma televisions, widescreen laptops, Coach handbags and accessories and fashion watches, particularly from Diesel, Armani and Burberry.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Carrie Moore, a hospital corpsman at Sasebo’s Navy Branch Health Clinic, said that throughout her Navy career, shopping at NEX stores “has been OK. But sometimes they don’t have what I’m looking for.”
When it comes to the trendy, her interest centers on the newest DVDs and music CDs.
“When this base had smaller stores in different locations, it was harder to find what I wanted,” she said. But since a new, $15.8-million NEX opened in Sasebo in January, “there’s just a lot more,” Moore said while shopping there Thursday. “You can find most everything you need. … The DVD and CD selection is superb now.”
If so, it’s not because of local efforts.
“Our buyers select items for the NEX stores worldwide,” said Sasebo NEX General Manager Sandra Franklin. As for stocking the trendy items that customers might want, “it’s just not up to us,” she said. No buyers are assigned solely to Sasebo, she said.
The same generally is true of AAFES stores, said Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Glenn, spokeswoman for AAFES’ headquarters in Okinawa.
“All the main stock items that we carry in our stores worldwide are handled by our buyers out of Dallas,” she said.