Sales of beer and wine in commissaries are picking up, said a source close to industry — even with the limited selection and limited number of stores selling it.

Through Dec. 1, beer and wine sales had exceeded $375,000 for the 12 pilot stores in the continental U.S., said Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department. That breaks out to $183,000 in beer sales and $192,000 in wine sales, she said. Those stores began selling beer and wine in late July.

Gleason said there is no schedule for rolling out beer and wine sales to the remainder of the commissaries within the Defense Commissary Agency, as commissary and exchange officials gather and analyze the factors related to the sales.

“Once that analysis is complete, military resale will make its recommendation to DoD leadership, and DoD will decide any future expansion,” Gleason said.

However, two sources said industry is preparing for the expansion, and beer and wine should be available in virtually all commissaries by the end of 2019.

This initiative to begin selling beer and wine doesn’t include distilled spirits.

Robert Wilkie, previous under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, authorized the sale of beer and wine in commissaries in a memo dated April 27, noting that “commissary stores are intended to be similar to commercial grocery stores and may sell merchandise similar to that sold in commercial stores.

“The availability of beer and wine at [commissaries] will increase customer satisfaction and convenience, and align with common commercial grocery story practices.”

The commissaries purchase beer and wine for resale from the military exchanges, to minimize any potential impact on exchange profits and dividends to morale, welfare and recreation programs. This is similar to the way tobacco is priced in commissaries. Commissary customers also pay a 5 percent surcharge at the cash register on all items they purchase in commissaries.

For now, the selection of beer and wine is not as large as it is in the exchanges, nor are the selections necessarily the best, said one source. But that’s expected to improve, the source said.

The initial phase was designed to help commissary and exchange officials make sure all the business systems and ordering and delivery processes are in sync before expanding beer and wine sales across the commissary system.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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