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Shoppers at the commissary at RAF Lakenheath, England, take advantage of a case lot sale earlier this year. Customers throughout the Defense Commissary Agency-Europe will again have that opportunity this month when the agency holds its final case lot sale of the year.
Shoppers at the commissary at RAF Lakenheath, England, take advantage of a case lot sale earlier this year. Customers throughout the Defense Commissary Agency-Europe will again have that opportunity this month when the agency holds its final case lot sale of the year. (Courtesy of DeCA-Europe)

Somewhere on the Rhine River in Germany there are large barges moving upstream with tons of low-priced goods that will have commissary customers all aflutter this month.

In a few weeks, most stores operated by the Defense Commissary Agency-Europe will hold their semi-annual case lot sale. With the price of food and household items reduced by 21 percent to 59 percent, commissaries from Vilseck, Germany, to Vicenza, Italy, should be jammed with loaded shopping carts.

On that first day, people typically “are just lined up at the door ready to go,” said Jaime Segarra Jr., store director of the commissary in Hohenfels, Germany.

Despite the long lines, they come. That’s especially true of the fall event, which is traditionally busier than the spring sale.

“May is normally not as productive, as far as the sale goes,” said Cathie Mason, the commissary store director at RAF Lakenheath, England.

That’s largely because May marks the beginning of the moving season. It’s also a time when Americans are focused on summer vacations.

“People’s thoughts and spending priorities are on other things,” said Steve Armbruster, chief of marketing for DeCA-Europe.

By fall, folks are gearing up for the winter, Armbruster said.

For this sale, DeCA has ordered more than 127,000 cases for the participating commissaries. Much of what goes on sale is nonperishable items, such as diapers and cleaning products, or goods with a relatively long shelf life, such as breakfast cereals or pet food.

“Some of the products have already arrived,” Armbruster said. Other goods “are making their way [up] the Rhine River to Germersheim,” the main distribution center for DeCA-Europe.

In all, there will be more than 90 different sale items to choose from. While the types of goods remain more or less constant from one case lot sale to the next, DeCA officials tweak the product list to fit the season.

“It’s all a guess,” Mason said. “We’re trying to walk that fine line of what customers are looking for at that time.”

DeCA not only adjusts the list of items it will offer, but the amount, too.

In May, the agency shipped in more than 136,000 cartons of goods, but sold only about 79,000. In a sense, the spring case lot sale stretched well beyond that weekend because of the larger-than-anticipated surplus.

So last month, commissary officials ordered 9,000 fewer cases for the fall sale, even though they expect to sell more than they did in the spring.

“What’s coming in should be more than adequate,” Armbruster said. “Hopefully, we won’t have much in the barn afterwards.”

The large Lakenheath commissary that Mason runs is slated to receive about 8,000 cases, while Segarra and his staff in Hohenfels are on tap to get slightly more than 2,000 cases. In May, when Segarra operated a smaller store in Garmisch, Germany, he had only 600 cartons to work with.

Last year, the spring sale generated $11.3 million for DeCA worldwide, while the fall version netted $11.6 million, according to Gerri Young, spokeswoman for DeCA-Europe.

In Europe, four communities that took part in May — Babenhausen, Giebelstadt and Kitzingen in Germany and Keflavik, Iceland — won’t be stringing up any bunting or balloons this time around. For these communities slated for closure, that biannual boatload of bargains has left the port.

Case lot sales

Azores: Lajes Field, Sept. 22-23.

Belgium: Chievres Air Base, Sept. 23-24.

England: Alconbury, Sept. 23-24; Croughton, Sept. 22-23; Fairford, Sept. 22-23; Lakenheath, Sept. 30-Oct. 1; Menwith Hill, Sept. 22-23; Mildenhall, Sept. 22-23.

Germany: Ansbach, Sept. 23-24; Bad Nauheim, Sept. 22-23; Bamberg, Sept. 23-24; Baumholder, Sept. 23-24; Bitburg, Sept. 23-24; Büdingen, Sept. 23-24; Darmstadt, Sept. 23-24; Dexheim, Sept. 22-23; Garmisch, Sept. 22-23; Gelnhausen, Sept. 22-23; Giessen, Sept. 23-24; Grafenwöhr, Sept. 22-23; Hanau, Sept. 23-24; Heidelberg, Sept. 23-24;Hohenfels, Sept. 22-23; Idar-Oberstein, Sept. 22-23; Illesheim, Sept. 22-23; Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Sept. 21-22; Mannheim, Sept. 23-24; McCully Barracks, Wackernheim, Sept. 21-22; Neubrücke, Sept. 22-23; Panzer Kaserne, Stuttgart, Sept. 21-22; Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Sept. 22-24; Ramstein Air Base, Sept. 23-24; Sembach, Sept. 23-24; Spangdahlem Air Base, Sept. 22-23; Vilseck, Sept. 23-24; Vogelweh, Sept. 23-24; Wiesbaden, Sept. 23-24; Würzburg, Sept. 23-24.

Italy: Aviano Air Base, Sept. 23-24; Livorno, Sept. 22-23; Naples, Sept. 15-17; Vicenza, Sept. 23-24.

Sicily: Sigonella, Sept. 29-30.

Mideast: Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 15-17; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 23-24.

Spain: Rota, Sept. 23-24.

Netherlands: Schinnen, Sept. 23-24.

Turkey: Ankara, Sept. 23-24; Incirlik Air Base, Sept. 23-24; Izmir, Sept. 23-24.

For more information on the sale, especially as it applies to a particular store, customers can visit the DeCA Web site at www.commissaries.com.

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