Veterans have spent more than $60 million at their online military exchange since the new benefit was launched more than a year ago, officials said.
The new veteran benefit was approved by the Defense Department in 2017 — for online shopping only.
Sales at the ShopMyExchange.com site operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) have increased by more than 12 percent compared to the same period last year, said AAFES spokesman Chris Ward.
Any veteran can shop at any of the online stores, regardless of their branch of service.
AAFES “is highly encouraged by the response from authorized veteran shoppers,” Ward said.
And since the new benefit was launched, veterans have saved more than $4 million in sales taxes alone with their purchases at the AAFES site, where online shopping remains tax free, Ward said.
“Increased online sales are playing a role in overall earnings increases at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service,” Ward said.
Tom Shull, chief executive officer of AAFES, formally proposed the idea to DoD of expanding the online benefit to honorably discharged veterans in May 2014, noting that it would provide a modest benefit to those who had served but left the military short of retirement.
It also helps the military by generating more profits than normally would be raked in, and those dollars help fund morale, welfare and recreation programs for troops and their families.
Overall, more than 400,000 veterans have registered to shop through ShopMyExchange.com.
Of those, 75,000 have placed an order at ShopMyExchange.com – generating a total of 260,000 sales worth $60 million, Ward said.
Navy Exchange Service Command officials don’t track how many purchases veterans make, or other general information about their spending but officials have recorded an 8 percent hike in sales on the myNavyExchange.com website, spokeswoman Kristine Sturkie said.
NEXCOM currently has 85,000 veteran myNavyExchange.com account holders, she added.
Top 10 veterans online shopping benefit categories for AAFES' ShopMyExchange.com:
|Top sales categories|
|1. Home entertainment|
|2. Computer hardware|
|5. Major appliances|
|6. Sporting goods|
|9. Outdoor Living|
|10. Men’s clothing|
Top 10 states where veterans are using their online shopping benefit for AAFES' ShopMyExchange.com:
|Top states for veterans' AAFES online shopping|
|4. New York|
|8. North Carolina|
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.