BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The Buckley Base Exchange is changing ... and change can be good.
The biggest changes will be in the Power Zone, which will boast the interactive "ARC" that will allow customers to get a better feel for products when considering a purchase.
"If you want to buy a camera, that camera will have power," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffry Helm, senior enlisted advisor to the commanding general of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, during his visit to Buckley in June. "So you'll be able to go up and play with the camera, zoom in and zoom out so you can see what kind of pictures you can take with it. Everything is attached to this arc and it all has power so you can actually play with stuff before buying it."
Nicola Carter, the Buckley Exchange general manager, pointed out that while the Power Zone will undergo the most change, other upgrades have already been accomplished or will be underway shortly.
"We have just completed installing new carpets in the clothing, Military Clothing Sales Store and jewelry and cosmetics areas and it looks great," she said. "As the Power Zone shifts other agencies will change and some fixtures will change too, all of this is designed to enhance the shopping experience for our customers and to stay ahead of industry trends."
Unlike the rest of the retail industry, AAFES proceeds go right back into improving the facility and other facilities on the base. Mrs. Carter acknowledges that customers have the choice to shop elsewhere, but hopes they come for more than convenience.
"First and foremost because of our customer service - we are your BX," she said. "But for 115 years now AAFES has had a dual and critical mission of providing goods and services at competitively low prices and to generate income for Morale, Welfare and Recreation in order to assist in funding for the base gym, the child development centers and outdoor recreation and other activities. In the past 10 years AAFES has contributed $2.4 billion to military communities around the world."
Members of the Buckley community might ask why selection of the newest, most popular styles and items can be a problem at any exchange. The answer is the diversity in customer incomes that BX general managers like Mrs. Carter attempt to satisfy.
"Next time you are in the BX take a look at the diversity in our customer base, you won't find that anywhere else - our customers income levels runs from $20,000 a year to over $100,000 a year with all different shapes, sizes and tastes," she said. "It is impossible in the square footage we have to provide everyone with their specific needs so we target those who need us most of all, we have to take care of the young airmen and their families who do not have the disposable income of tenured NCOs and officers. We encourage our customers to use both our online and catalogue shopping opportunities, these vastly expand our assortment."
Chief Helm noted that customers using the www.aafes.com
site can select from 18 million items online. He said by going through the aafes.com site, to a link to an outside retailer, the customer will save an additional five to 15 percent.
Chief Helm said it is AAFES' goal to be its customer's first choice in retail. To do so, he said, exchanges simply need to offer what people want. Another retail tool the BX uses to keep customers happy is price matching. If something is priced for less off base and the customer tells the cashier, that cashier has the authority to take up to $10 off the price. For items marked down more than $10, the customer must also bring a sale flyer or other show of proof and the exchange will match the price if it is the very same item.
Chief Helm said one of the things he'll take back to his headquarters is that Buckley needs a new Shoppette.
"I will do my best to get that elevated to the folks in Dallas and see what we can do," said Chief Helm. "It's not going to happen overnight. Chief Helm says we need a new Shoppette. You're not going to come to work the next week and have a 2,000 square foot Shoppette. It doesn't happen that quick."
While a new Shoppette is still on the distant horizion, changes to the BX will be completed before the holidays, said Chief Helm.
"If all goes according to plan, it is a realistic expectation that we finish by the end of October," said Mrs. Carter.
Last year, $264 million in AAFES proceeds went back the MWR. In the last 10 years, the number is a staggering 2.4 billion. Last year, $481,000 went to Buckley alone.
"If you shop at AAFES.com, the zip codes are divided, so if you live within a certain radius of Buckley and you shop at AAFES.com, Buckley still gets the MWR dividends," said Chief Helm.