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Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse Raquel Girard, 35, checked out clothing at Kaufland, a shopping mall in Amberg, in July.

Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse Raquel Girard, 35, checked out clothing at Kaufland, a shopping mall in Amberg, in July. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse Raquel Girard, 35, checked out clothing at Kaufland, a shopping mall in Amberg, in July.

Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse Raquel Girard, 35, checked out clothing at Kaufland, a shopping mall in Amberg, in July. (Seth Robson / S&S)

Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouses Raquel Girard, 35, checked out clothing at Kaufland, a shopping mall in Amberg, in July.

Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouses Raquel Girard, 35, checked out clothing at Kaufland, a shopping mall in Amberg, in July. (Seth Robson / S&S)

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Thousands of soldiers and family members who recently arrived in Germany as part of the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment are finding out what most shoppers already know: On-post shopping is a good value, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to check out what German shops have to offer.

Second Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment spouse Daphne Lusk, 24, of Canton, Ga., who recently arrived in Vilseck, said Monday she buys most of her clothes and shoes off-post, mostly in the nearby town of Weiden.

“I wouldn’t buy my clothes on-post. The PX (Post Exchange) doesn’t have bigger clothes. Most of their sizes are small and what they have in big sizes is not very attractive. They have plenty of large sizes in the German stores,” said Lusk, whose last purchase was a purse bought at the Crown Jewel Bazaar on-post at Grafenwöhr.

Angela Zimmerman, 21, of Lancaster, S.C., another recently-arrived 2nd Cav spouse shopping at Vilseck on Monday, said she does most of her shopping on-post because it’s closer and she doesn’t have her driver’s license yet.

So far most of Zimmerman’s purchases in Germany have been from the PX for her 9-month-old son, Azriel Dominyck, she said.

“There is probably better value on post but I don’t like much of the clothing at the PX,” said Zimmerman.

“They don’t really have anything that suits me. There is a fashion sense that is widespread through the female population here and I try not to follow that if I can. I like more alternative punk/gothic type stuff,” said Zimmerman, who has a pierced nose and lip.

Grafenwöhr Consolidated Exchange manager Matt Mennona said he estimated Americans shop on-post about 75 percent of the time.

A big attraction of on-post shopping, aside from the tax-free prices, is the familiar American brands, he said.

“We try to bring a little bit of home in our stores,” Mennona said.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) has great deals on American brands. For example, AAFES stores save customers 25 to 35 percent on the cost of Columbia clothing.

AAFES also has its own product lines such as R&R, which makes low-cost clothing, he said.

“There are unique items that the German economy has to offer. Of course they (shoppers) are going to enjoy going off post for that but we have vendors who can provide some of those items on post,” he said.

AAFES stocks its stores based on the demographics of communities. At Vilseck the PX focuses on small families and the 18 to 24 age group, he said.

This winter, for example, the PXtra at Vilseck is selling Burton snowboards and bindings ($269), although people will have to go off-post to buy boots and ski equipment, he said.

The new PX under construction at Grafenwöhr will allow AAFES to offer more product lines to its customers in the area, Mennona added.

Comparison shopping

How do PX prices compare with those at German stores?

Sports gear

Asics running shoes, cheapest model: 79.95 euros, E-Deka mall in Weiden. $29, Vilseck post exchange.Adidas track suit top: 69.96 euros, E-Deka. $40, PX.Spalding basketball: 49.95 euros, E-Deka. $12.99,PX.Columbia ski jacket: 179.95 to 249.95 euros at Pressath’s Sport Point store. Not available at PX but Burton ski jackets cost $159.95, Jack Wolfskin ski jackets, $149.95.Columbia snowboard pants: 99 euros, Pressath’s Sport Point store. Not available at PX, but Burton snowboard pants cost $129.95.Hardware

Elix socket set: 6.99 euros, Obi hardware stores in Pressath. $19.95 for cheapest socket set at Vilseck.Hammer: 4.99 euros, Obi hardware stores in Pressth. $2.95, PX.Drugstore items

Maybelline lipstick: 5.49 euros, Pressath’s Schlecker pharmacy. $4.99, PX.Electronics

Three-outlet plug adaptor: 1.29 euros at Media Markt in Weiden. $9.99 at the Grafenwöhr PXtra.Transonic navigators with maps covering all of Europe: 349 euros at Media Markt. $350 on-post.Vivanco wireless headphones: 17 euros, Media Markt. Bluewave wireless headphones, $89.95 at PX.American ID cardholders can use forms to avoid paying the 16 percent value-added tax — rising to 19 percent in January — on products bought at German stores.

— Seth Robson

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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