Holiday sales brisk at Pacific military exchanges
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Despite deployments from the Pacific theater in support of the war, sales at military exchanges in the region were up over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to retailers.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service saw an increase of 6 percent from 2005 over the four-day weekend, said Mark Neeley, AAFES main store manager at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
“As a company, we’re very positive about our results and how we’re going to wind up here,” he said. “For [Pacific] to be up — a lot of folks are deployed out of [Pacific] — that means a lot.”
At Yokota, sales posted a 40 percent gain over 2005 on Thanksgiving Day, but the rest of the weekend fell flat, Neeley said.
“I can’t help but think it’s a population decline” due to deployments, he said. Several hundred airmen from Yokota currently are deployed, officials said.
Sales at Camp Foster, Okinawa, were up 23 percent, Neeley said, noting the store has AAFES’ third-largest sales volume worldwide.
And Jeffrey Gardner, a manager at Kadena Air Base’s main exchange, noted sales were 8 percent above 2005. “We had lines wrapped around the store,” he said.
At the Yongsan Garrison main exchange in South Korea, sales were about the same as last year, said Ken Limtiaco, AAFES general manager for areas I and II.
Gloria Cho, Yongsan exchange acting store manager, said it’s hard to know whether deployments affected sales.
But soldiers from all over South Korea used to travel to Yongsan to shop, she said. “Over the weekend, we saw some of them coming up but not as much as before.”
Sales at other South Korean locations were up, Limtiaco said, including at Camp Casey, which saw a double-digit increase over the weekend.
At Yokosuka Naval Base, home of the biggest Navy Exchange overseas, sales also were brisk over the holiday weekend, said Rusti Rausch, NEX Japan district operations manager. She said sales were up at all NEX outlets in Japan, including stores at Sasebo Naval Base and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, with Sunday posting the highest gain, 5.6 percent.
Customer spending is up nationally, she said. “Everybody is getting the ‘feel-good’ factor. When things are good, customers shop.”
The National Retail Federation reported that during Thanksgiving weekend, U.S. consumers spent almost 19 percent more than in 2005: an average of $360 compared with last year’s $303.
The same report also noted that as of Nov. 26, just one in 12 consumers had finished his or her holiday shopping.
Misawa shopper Dana Cooper, 22, is in the still-shopping majority. But she’s not worried.
“We a have a while until Christmas,” she said, while shopping with a friend and her 1-year-old son Wednesday at the Misawa main exchange. “I’m just looking for the best deals.”
However, procrastination can be deadly if shopping at exchanges, spouse Pamela Bonte said at Yokosuka’s NEX. “I started shopping in August,” she said. “I learned the hard way that if you wait for the last minute to shop on base, there are long lines at the register and no toys left.”
Still, spouse Mycha Gladney also remains not worried.
“When will I do the Christmas shopping? That’s a good question,” said Gladney, also at Yokosuka on Tuesday. “I know I should go this week, and I’ll most likely shop here.”
Staff Sgts. Jeff and Stacey Clouse are almost finished, they said proudly while squeezing a few extra minutes’ shopping into Wednesday’s lunch break at Misawa. They did, however, have some added motivation: Stacey is nine months pregnant and the baby is due next week.
“That’s why we did it early,” Stacey said, “just in case I didn’t have any energy.”
Stripes reporters Allison Batdorff, Vince Little and Anita Powell contributed to this story.