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Consumer Watch: Tracking trends

New Wal-Mart data will help exchanges stock what's hot - and get you the best deals

Apr. 19, 2012 - 03:28PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 19, 2012 - 03:28PM  |  
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Prices on the rise

Commissary prices rose 3.99 percent over the 12-month period ending in March. That compares to a 4.5 percent increase nationwide from February 2011 to February 2012, the most recent date for which nationwide data was available.
Commissary price increases:
• Dairy: 7.95%
• Frozen goods: 3.44%
• Fresh produce: 2.53%
• Fresh meat: 8.82%
• Prepackaged meat: 6.67%
• Dry grocery (edible): 4.39%
• Dry grocery (nonedible): 2.94%
• Health and beauty care: 1.81%
• Delivered baked goods: 6.26%

Have you always shopped at Wal-Mart rather than your exchange because Wal-Mart has a better selection?

Then you might want to give your exchange another chance starting later this summer. New data from Wal-Mart and Sam's Club will help ensure exchange customers are getting good prices and help the exchanges spot hot trends and get items on the shelves more quickly, officials say.

For the first time in 10 years, Wal-Mart is releasing information about the quality and prices under agreements signed with consumer research companies Nielsen and NPD Group. The new data will be added to an existing database that averages prices from multiple retailers so exchange officials can verify that vendors are providing comparable prices to the exchanges.

"The data will also show whether pricing should be adjusted, or if outside retailers might be getting promotion prices that have not been offered to the exchanges, as well as the times of the year that those promotions are typically running," said Army and Air Force Exchange Service spokesman Judd Anstey.

Navy Exchange officials won't use the data for pricing they use market surveys for that, said Navy Exchange Service Command spokeswoman Kathleen Martin. But it vastly improves the information available about market trends, she said.

Retailers, including the exchanges, don't get specific data about other retailers. Researchers collect data based on an item's universal product code and roll those figures into an average for that product at all participating retailers, including stores such as Kmart, Target and club stores.

The data will be more complete with the addition of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, officials said.

"This is a way for AAFES to identify trends for consumers. If there's a hot product, we'll know, so we can make it available," said Lorie Sanborn, strategic business analyst in AAFES's business intelligence client operations.

According to AAFES, Nielsen collects data on:

Consumer packaged goods, such as groceries, premade sandwiches and ready-to-eat meals.

Consumables such as health and beauty care, cleaning products, candy, snacks and drinks.

Music and video media.


The NPD Group categories are:


Beauty, such as fragrance, makeup and skin care.

Consumer electronics.

Entertainment, such as video and computer games.

Clothing, accessories and shoes.


Small and major appliances.

Office supplies.


Mobile phone accessories, two-way radios and land-line telecommunications.

Outdoor catalog available

Prices in the new 48-page 2012 Outdoor Living Exchange Catalog will be good through July 3. The catalog aims to help military customers spruce up their outdoor living spaces, with products ranging from grills and patio furniture to swimming pools.

Catalogs are available in all main stores and online at

Authorized exchange shoppers from any branch, including the Coast Guard, as well as members of the National Guard and reserve and retirees and their family members, can shop at any exchange store.

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