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Patron Savings FAQ

Question Answer

What is the commissary savings rate supposed to measure?

The savings number is meant to capture the percentage a patron can save, on average, by shopping at a commissary instead of a commercial retailer.

Question Answer

In the past, why have you said the savings rate was 30 percent? I notice I save more on some products than others.

  • In the past we measured the savings rate across all items in a worldwide average market basket – which means you might find some variation in how much you save on individual items.
    • For example, let's say the average savings rate is 30 percent worldwide. On a given day, the average savings might be 35 percent on pasta and 25 percent on beans, but on average, the savings would be 30 percent for a typical shopper's basket of groceries.
  • When you, the shopper, compare prices, you're looking at a single point in time. But prices change regularly, as costs from suppliers change, demand fluctuates and retailers put items on sale. A snapshot on one day might compare a product on sale at the commissary to a product at a commercial retailer that's not on sale. That's why we provided an annual average number, compared to all retail grocery outlets.
Question Answer

What are the updated savings rate estimates?

  • If you shop at the commissary, the new estimated global savings rate is about 24 percent on average, annually.
    • On average, our patrons in the United States save 20 percent, and those overseas save as much as 44 percent.
    • Use this map to see each region and the associated stores in the United States.

For information about your specific region, see the table below:

Area Number of Commissaries Savings Percentage*
New England 36 21.4%
South Atlantic 30 19.9%
South Central 33 18.1%
Pacific 31 20.9%
Mountain 20 17.6%
North Central 18 20.2%
Alaska / Hawaii 9 32.6%
US Average 177 20.2%
Overseas 61 44.2%
Global Average 238 23.7%

*Calculation includes applicable taxes in commercial grocery store prices and surcharge in commissary prices; without these, savings would be US (22.3%); Overseas (45.6%); Global (25.7%). 35 States (70%) do not have sales tax on food items.

Question Answer

What is the new savings calculation based on and why were private label and store brands included in the methodology?

The savings calculation matches shopper behavior and preferences, as shown by market data. This data shows what shoppers buy and how much of each product they buy. It reveals that shoppers buy branded and store brand, or private label, products from a range of retailers, including superstores. The most accurate way to capture how much our patrons save by shopping at a commissary is to compare commissary prices for a product to commercial prices for that same product, which includes branded and store brand options. As an example, market data shows shoppers prefer buying store brand milk, eggs, and cheese (i.e., data shows high store brand market penetration). That means our typical commissary shopper would either buy milk, eggs and cheese at the commissary or would likely buy store brand equivalents at a commercial grocery store. Therefore, including store brand products in the savings calculation, in addition to brand-name products, provides a fair and accurate assessment of their shopping experience.

Question Answer

What additional adjustments are used to determine the savings comparisons?

  • Commissary prices used in calculations are inclusive of the 5 percent surcharge. For stores in the United States, market prices include the relevant local tax.
  • In states that do not tax food items, commissary savings are reduced by more than 2 percent.
  • Promotional prices are included, both at commissaries and in the commercial market.
  • For our stores overseas, DeCA uses a cost of living index to estimate market prices of groceries in the specific area around each overseas commissary.
Question Answer

How often are prices compared?

  • Average regional and national prices for all 38,000 items sold by the commissary are refreshed monthly.
  • Regional store price comparisons ("manual shops") are done each quarter. One fourth of stores in each region are measured each quarter, thus a full data refresh takes one year.
Question Answer

How are the more than 1,000 items chosen for comparison?

The items chosen are based on the most common patron purchases within each category (produce, meat, etc.) and include different brands of the same type of products. These items are also selected to mirror patron purchasing behavior.

Question Answer

How are the stores for comparison chosen?

  • The group of commercial grocery stores used for comparison to each commissary contain two or three primary stores (including a supercenter where available) closest to where the greatest proportion of patrons live within a 20-mile radius of the commissary.
  • In some rural areas only two comparison stores were available.
  • Walmart supercenters represent 37 percent of the stores surveyed.
Question Answer

Why did the legislation require DeCA to change the way it calculates savings?

  • The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires that the current value of the patron benefit be maintained while DeCA makes operational changes to improve the overall shopping experience and reduce its operating costs.
  • Thus, Congress required that a new baseline be identified and that baseline level of patron savings be maintained. Therefore, DeCA has updated how it calculates patron savings.
  • Congressionally mandated changes to the savings methodology include:
    • Add a regionally specific dimension to the savings calculations in order to more accurately monitor the savings benefit to patrons as the transformation effort is rolled out.
    • Measure savings more frequently (now measured monthly).
    • Monitor national savings and regional savings on items most frequently purchased by commissary patrons to more fully understand the patron savings experience and maintain the current level of savings by region.
Question Answer

Is the amount I save going down?

  • No. Although prices will fluctuate as they do now due to market forces, the actual savings to the customer will not change as a result of DeCA's updated savings measurement methodology. These changes help DeCA more accurately measure the savings customers experience.
  • These changes are intended to help ensure patron savings do not decrease.

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